In 2016, there were 23 million IoT connections, and by 2022, that number is expected to reach 191 million. The government going all guns blazing with its Digital India campaign and focus on smart cities only adds to the drive.
Earlier this year, Telecom Secretary JS Deepak stated that India might get 5G connectivity around the same time as the rest of the world.
At the IoT India Congress in Bangalore, a conversation with the Additional Secretary of the Department of Telecommunications, N Sivasailam and TV Ramachandran, President of the Broadband India Forum and Chairman, Telecom Sector Committee shed light on the influx of IoT in India and the 5G roadmap in the country.
“As far as India is concerned, as we're taking proactive action, we're likely to move to 5G at the very beginning. We got 4G three years after it was rolled out, and 3G seven years after deployment. But we're likely to be in 5G from the time it's deployed.”
N Sivasailam, Additional Secretary, DoT
What works in India’s favour is the fact that India's Low Mobility Large Cell (LMLC) concept has been accepted as the standard in 5G. So any standard in 5G should incorporate this aspect as well.
“As far as India is concerned, as we're taking proactive action, we're likely to move to 5G at the very beginning. We got 4G three years after it was rolled out, and 3G seven years after deployment. But we're likely to be in 5G from the time it's deployed,” says N Sivasailam, Additional Secretary, Govt. of India, Ministry of Communications and IT – Dept. of Telecommunications.
Throwing light on why India stands on higher ground when it comes to 5G, Sivasailam says that all over the world, 5G is still on the drawing board. Standards in 5G are still being set up, and the beauty about it is that for the first time in history, India has been included in terms of standards. And that has got big implications.
The international roadmap says that the first set of 5G devices will be deployed in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Seoul. The next set will be deployed in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. We cannot expect to have a full scale 5G roll-out until the Tokyo Olympics.
Framework and technology drivers for 5G and IoT
In India, the first set of demonstrations will actually be a 5G ecosystem developed on 4G spectrum. 5G technology is actually based on the 4G ecosystem.
Explaining the ecosystem that will support newer technologies like 5G and IoT, Sivasailam says: “We're likely to make a transformation from hardware-based ecosystems to a much lighter ecosystem, because there will be so many applications and the fragmentation which will not go well with hardware-based ecosystems.”
"So many new and emerging technologies like ZigBee and LoRa can help build the IoT ecosystem. In fact, LoRa is one of the technologies that has been zeroed in on for developing this ecosystem"
T V Ramachandran, President, Broadband India Forum
Coming to the spectrum 5G will operate in, he says that the sub-6 GHz spectrum has been identified as one of the areas in which 5G would operate, and also the 26 to 30 GHz spectrum. The 700 MHz spectrum has been identified for operating 5G for intermediate backhaul.
The Americans have identified the 30 GHz spectrum, and the Europeans are likely to follow that.
As far as IoT is concerned, it can be operated on 4G as well. 5G will be more for connected cars and other applications that have to operate on very low latency. But reasonably low latency on 4G can be achieved as well, which is sufficient for industry level applications.
In fact, we see a lot of IoT applications in health and education. In healthcare, a lot of IoT-based applications are already possible in the present 4G ecosystem.
TV Ramachandran, President of the Broadband India Forum and member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology highlights the significance of newer technologies in the 5G and IoT space. "So many new and emerging technologies like ZigBee and LoRa can help build the IoT ecosystem. In fact, LoRa is one of the technologies that has been zeroed-in on for developing this ecosystem," he says.
Challenges in deploying 5G in India, and what makes Bangalore the flag bearer
The roadmap for 5G deployment in our country looks bright, agreed. However, there are hurdles staring us in the face.
“As it is an ecosystem development, the first challenge we will face is with respect to affordability. Consider the possibility of you working on a 5G system, and your partners not running on 5G. Of what use would it be to you then?” explains Sivasailam.
Now these ecosystems depend on mass acceptance and mass affordability. So what needs to be ensured is that the cost of devices and applications is kept low.
Highlighting the role of Bangalore in driving 5G, Sivasailam says: “5G relies entirely on sensors and software, and that has great implications for Bangalore. If in case Bangalore does not become a base for 5G ecosystems, then the electronic industry ecosystem will be affected.”
“Having more than 50 percent of the country's startups based in the city, we see Bangalore becoming the flag-bearer for 5G technologies,” he adds.