With telcos eyeing 5G deployment, India is poised for dramatically improved data speeds and lag-free videos, where applications will range from connected ambulances to cloud gaming and even augmented reality-driven shopper trials, experts say.
The fifth generation or 5G will allow the download of a full-length high-quality video or movie on mobile and other devices in seconds (even in crowded places or at mega events) and will support a million devices per square kilometer.
Super-fast speeds (about 10 times faster than 4G), low-latency connectivity, enabling billions of connected devices to share data in real-time, promises to unleash more immersive entertainment, 3D hologram conversations, meta-universe experiences, and redefining educational applications, even the way people play or watch sports.
While Indian consumers will soon see 5G rollout in select cities, followed by wider coverage in 12-18 months, improved mobile broadband is expected to be the initial primary use case.
New technology will, over time, give life to applications that might have sounded far-fetched just a few years ago.
Retailers are embracing augmented reality (AR) in a 5G environment to curate immersive shopping experiences that allow customers to see what a new piece of furniture would look like in their homes.
5G with high-tech gadgets can change the way education is delivered, even in remote areas, say by hosting lecturers or guest speakers through powered holograms or broadcasting mixed reality content in classrooms.
Earlier this year, Airtel teamed up with Apollo Hospitals and Cisco to demonstrate a 5G-connected ambulance that acts as an extension of the emergency room, transmitting real-time patient telemetry data, including vital signs, to doctors and experts at the hospital.
The idea is to use the “golden hour” or critical first “60 minutes” after any injury or trauma, when timely medical attention can save lives.
The 5G-connected ambulance features medical equipment, patient monitoring applications and telemetry devices that transmit the patient’s health data to the hospital. It features embedded cameras, camera-based headgear and body cameras for paramedics connected to the ultra-high-speed, low-latency 5G network.
These life-saving applications are further enabled with technologies such as AR/VR (augmented reality and virtual reality). The demonstration was held in Bengaluru on the trial 5G spectrum provided to Airtel by the Ministry of Telecom.
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Another example is 5G VR cloud gaming, a concept that market watchers say will excite gamers. Reliance Jio is testing a virtual reality or VR enabled cloud experience on its domestic 5G network.
This trial period marks a significant upgrade from console-based cloud gaming as multiple gamers are connected to Jio’s low-latency 5G network using their VR headsets and gaming accessories.
Instant haptic feedback (tactile feedback or 3D touch), gesture control as well as VR rendering leverages the high bandwidth and low latency of Jio’s 5G network, allowing gamers to react to gameplay in real-time with reflexive actions.
“Reliable sports and other types of streaming without lag or lag, mobile and cloud gaming, consumer IoT and AR/VR for immersive experiences… there are many use cases for 5G in the consumer space,” said Nishant Bansal, senior research manager , telecommunications at IDC India.
Manufacturing and healthcare are likely to be among the key early adopters of 5G.
“In manufacturing, to implement and manage smart factories to improve efficiency and productivity and to minimize human error. “Industrial automation through the use of robotics and the ‘digital twin’ are some of the other possible examples of use in manufacturing,” he notes.
According to a report by Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson, 5G subscriptions in India are expected to reach 500 million by the end of 2027, accounting for 39 percent of mobile subscribers.
“5G and immersive technology will fundamentally change the way we live, work and consume information and media,” said Nitin Bansal, Managing Director, Ericsson India.
He cited an Ericsson report titled Harnessing the Consumer Potential of 5G to highlight a range of digital services that will be redefined with 5G and immersive experiences, including live sports streaming, enhanced video, cloud gaming, augmented/virtual reality and consumer IoT services.
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Other use cases include autonomous cars (sharing data to prevent road collisions), 5G facial recognition payments, 3D hologram conversations, AR maps, real-time translations, drone delivery, virtual shopping and more, he said.
An executive at a major telecommunications services company, who did not want to be named, said young professionals, tech enthusiasts and businesses will opt for 5G quickly, despite the likely premium price for such services.
Although tariffs and plans will be announced by telcos closer to the launch dates, analysts expect average monthly sales, measured in terms of average revenue per user, to be up to 20 percent higher with 5G than 4G.
“Mobile data prices in India are the lowest in the world and even with 10-20 percent higher ARPU than 4G, mobile data prices in India with 5G will still be the lowest in the world for consumers,” says Bansal from IDC.
Vodafone Idea recently said it expects 5G to be priced higher with more data bundled with plans compared to 4G services.