India is progressing to become a $1-trillion digital economy by 2025, which will require transformation of India’s digital infrastructure on a massive scale. While India has taken big strides over the years in terms of digital enablement, what could really help in powering Digital India is 5G.
If you create a Maslow’s model for ‘Digital India’, a clear hierarchy emerges. Education, healthcare and agriculture figure at the base level, industry and enterprises in the mid-level and lifestyle, infotainment and gaming at the top-level. 5G has the potential to create a digital revolution in each of these tiers.
Let me start with some technicalities. 5G isn’t just dazzling giga-bit data speeds. That is only a part of the 5G story. While initial deployments could be all about speed but 5G is going to usher in fundamental shifts in the way we live, work and play. The shift from 4G to 5G will be multi-dimensional and magnitudes higher than the shift from 3G to 4G. 5G not only enables a lot of new spectrum to be put to use but is also more efficient than 4G in the spectrum already in use. It can pack more data than 4G for the same amount of spectrum.
5G can change the education sector profoundly by offering improved remote-learning opportunities. It is hard to achieve uniform teaching quality across India, and this is especially true for rural areas. With 5G, high quality interactive virtual class rooms and content can be streamed all over the country from anywhere, bridging the gap between rural and urban India. This means that, rather than watching videos of distant teachers, students in remote Indian villages would be able to participate in classes in real-time. 5G-enabled classrooms could include a holographic teacher who can beam in to lead discussions on specialised topics; seamless virtual reality experiences that can help students with diverse learning needs, better engagement and connected devices that could help close gaps in education for students who are in remote areas.
With 5G, reliable healthcare could be made accessible even to the remotest of places. A visit to a local kiosk could connect one to a medical professional anywhere in the world. Remote diagnostics and tele-consultation will fill the lacunae in rural healthcare. 5G will allow patients who are disabled, lack transportation or are simply too sick for an office visit to use telehealth services to communicate more quickly with their physicians. Connected devices, IoT, artificial intelligence will help give a new dimension to healthcare in the country allowing for remote diagnostics and even treatment and surgeries.
When we are talking about growth of the economy, we cannot forget agriculture. Digitisation of agriculture, and introduction of technologies such as AI and IoT, enabled by 5G can help improve overall productivity. Smart sensors placed in a farm can gather and deliver real-time soil status, humidity and temperature to measure and inform farmers about what needs to be done to keep their crops healthy. 5G will help enhance, monitor, automate and improve agricultural operations and processes. This kind of real-time information will help farmers take immediate action in case of a disease in one part of the farm, and will enable them to manage their resources like water and fertilisers efficiently.
Enable Industry 4.0
5G will help enable the smart factory revolution. A smart factory will have equipment across the unit communicating amongst themselves in real-time with very high reliability. This will not only boost productivity of many industries but will also increase the safety and comfort of workers. Connectivity has remained a big challenge for what is called Industry 4.0. 5G will enable critical communications between machines and robots used in manufacturing.
Smart Cities and Smart Homes
Sensor equipped devices talking to each other will become the standard template of smart homes and smart cities. Especially for homes, we might see a new era of AI-enabled personalisation with optimised electricity use, automated grocery lists, tracking electronic devices, and automatic execution of daily routines. In the smart cities context, 5G could enable smart electricity grids and metering systems, smart traffic management, waste disposal systems and safety mechanisms. In real life, this will mean uninterrupted power and water supply, safer and cleaner cities and authorities attending to incidents and problems before anyone reports them.
Lag-free gaming and entertainment
5G will also take the entertainment experience to the next level. Playing an interactive cloud game in a virtual world with lag-free streaming will match the experience offered by gaming consoles.
It’s not just going to be quicker downloads and streaming. The big change will be in the super low latency. To take advantage of the super low latencies offered by 5G, services and functions traditionally in cloud data centres will move to the mobile edge. Mobile edge computing will make the whole network experience very tactile for the consumers. Entertainment streaming will also be transformed across sports, concerts, movies with extensive use of AR/VR, mixed-reality headsets that will provide never before seen visual experiences.
New business models
With 5G, it is possible to divide network resources into slices of various sizes and shapes such that different quality of services can be offered on the same physical network. This will means emergence of newer business models wherein app developers and service providers can offer exciting new experiences to specific users without disturbing the experience of other users.
Samsung is a global leader in 5G networks, having set up networks in Korea, US and other parts of the world over the last two years. We recently launched our new vision for Samsung in India: Powering Digital India and 5G is a central part of our refreshed R&D strategy in India as part of this new vision.
With these use cases, 5G could help in powering Digital India.
The writer is managing director, Samsung R&D Institute, Bengaluru