Over the past decade, the internet has embarked on an ambitious journey to provide consistent, unimpeded connectivity to the citizens of India. From the familiar hisses and beeps of the dial-up, to the few seconds it takes to connect to a Wi-Fi network now, and the speeds it promises in the coming years, the internet is undergoing a significant transformation that is already altering our present, and will inarguably redefine our future.
The internet is already an integral member of our lives, but our expectations are no longer just quick access or speed. We, as individuals and enterprises, want more from it, requirements that are continually pushing the boundaries of this technology. At this inflection point, we are going to witness an upheaval of our existing processes and systems, powered by a surge in 5G, WiFi6 and IoT adoption.
As per a recent study, the internet user base in India has surpassed 500 million devices and is likely to touch 627 million by the end of 2020. It is thus essential to rethink the network infrastructure that makes these connections possible, and the transformation of the internet has to begin at the foundation – silicon. By revamping our existing silicon architecture, we can unlock new avenues for innovation. But even the most advanced silicon is ineffective in driving results in operating networks without the right software that prioritises operations with simplicity and automation while reducing required resources and deployment efforts. The future of the internet, that includes 5G, Wi-Fi6, AI and other technologies, has to be built on converged, cloud-enhanced and trustworthy architectures that support the size and capabilities that the next generation will demand.
These technologies may be in their nascent stages of development, but as people come to realise their immense potential, the next generation of technology solutions will increasingly be based on 5G. If 4G was about speed, 5G will be about enhancing user experience, allowing for reliable communication, and a more efficient transfer of data with little or no lag. This fifth generation of the mobile network isn’t just another telecom service—it is set to drastically alter the way India, and the world at large, interacts with and consumes content. 5G will also provide AR and VR technologies the platform to become mainstream, supported by a secure network that promises high-speed, uninterrupted connectivity. In fact, Gartner predicts that by the end of 2020, as many as 100 million consumers will be using AR/VR technologies to shop online!
Gartner predicts that worldwide, 5G network infrastructure revenues will touch $4.2 billion in 2020, with 13 million 5G subscriptions. The Ericsson Report 2019 estimates 2.6 billion 5G subscriptions globally by 2025, accounting for 29% of all mobile subscriptions at that time. A similar rise in social network traffic will be witnessed over the next few years. Media applications that are more immersive than their primitive predecessors will propel mobile data traffic growth, as emerging 5G networks will provide the necessary infrastructure for unprecedented user experience.
The fifth generation of the internet is about pushing the envelope of innovation to far beyond what we experience today, and helping customers stay ahead of the curve. With the rollout of 5G, coupled with the launch of over-the-top (OTT) streaming services in the offing, 2020 promises to be a seminal year of growth for the telecommunication and media & entertainment industries. It presents abundant opportunities for those who can capitalise and maintain their pace in a dynamic digital landscape.
While telecom operators will be at the forefront of the splendid possibilities to which 5G alludes, other sectors will benefit greatly as well. As digital capabilities improve and connectivity becomes omnipresent, the internet is poised to rapidly and radically change nearly every sector of India’s economy. Soon, automation will seep into a number of industries, manufacturing in particular, and the time isn’t far when people will be managing robots; devices will talk to each other in a seamless fashion that seemed outlandish even five years ago. Ultimately, in the age of the new internet, the lines between real and digital, which are quite clear even today, will blur; the virtual and physical will coexist like never before, each driving the other to do more, to do better.
But one of the biggest impacts that the internet of the future will have is bridging the ever-widening chasm between India and Bharat. Fast, affordable internet will present those living in rural areas with access to information and resources they were previously lacking; it will help level the playing field, with SMEs reaching beyond their geographical borders, and engaging with a much larger audience. Lower latency and high capacities will allow patients in far-flung areas of the country to consult doctors and get medical advice online; new-age technologies will enable students in rural areas virtual access to lectures, expert visits and study material; 5G and Wi-Fi6 will facilitate financial inclusion of the rural unbanked through apps that offer a unified portal for essential banking services, among so many other benefits.
The end goal of connected devices and people is to create a robust ecosystem inclusive of the government, community, and corporates, to affect real change in the areas of critical human needs like education, economic empowerment, environmental sustainability, etc. The new internet will reshape India’s socio-economic and cultural fabric, digitally empowering over 1.3 billion citizens, and leading the country into its connected future.