Unlike 4G, 5G is a whole new technology, which should not be seen as a simple extension of the old mobile phone. Not only that, 5G is also likely to remain relevant for much longer, with 6G only coming into play after this decade, said Magnus Ewerbring, chief technology officer for Asia-Pacific at Ericsson at AASHISH ARYAN in an interview. Edited excerpts:
How big of the opportunities do you see for Ericsson as a company, especially in the Asia Pacific region, where although it is labor intensive, the role of technology cannot be denied?
I would like to expand it a bit and see what the potential of the industry is. Indeed, it is labor intensive, but technology, when it arrives, transforms some of the job opportunities. Some may unfortunately disappear, but it opens up so many other opportunities on another scale. A technology that facilitates and stimulates efficiency for all.
We looked at ten different segments in the industry sector and looked at what the potential is beyond traditional operator activity, which is related to voice and messaging.
We believe that $ 700 billion in additional revenue can be generated for mobile operators in these ten segments. This is almost 30 percent more revenue than they are supposed to make from traditional segments. So it only comes from mobile operators. Then you have other players in ICT (information and communication technologies). So if you include all the companies, you roughly double that number.
This is a tremendous opportunity on a global scale. For India, this figure translates to $ 17 billion, which remains a significant turnover only for mobile operators. Then you also have the other players here. The value to be released for companies is considerable by promoting safety and efficiency.
How are 5G trials going? What is the timing that you see for the launch of this new technology?
The concern is that our country is late and I hear this from many countries, and I have been hearing it for a few years now. I think this is quite natural, because countries don’t want it to be too late to lose the precursor advantage.
The trials we are doing in India have been very good. This shows that the technology is very mature. We did some testing with (Bharti) Airtel a few months ago, showing for commercial cellphones you buy in stores, which are already 5G compatible, download speed is up to 100mbps and higher speeds up to 10 km from the test site.
Likewise, with Vodafone Idea, corporate health as an example. India is very ripe and mature to go with 5G. Another key element is to look at the sales of smartphones. If you look at the smartphones sold in India today, which are 5G compatible, it is already the third largest in the world. What this tells me (is) that there are a lot of potential 5G users here as soon as operators turn it on. I think there is a great pent-up demand, and there is a great demand from business.
The most important thing we need now is clarity on the regulatory side. It’s about licensing spectrum to make it available and make it available on fair and reasonable terms. What exactly is has to be determined by each country. There has been some discussion as to whether spectrum prices are too expensive. And I think a lot of things can be done to make sure that there is money to build a blanket for the Indian people. As soon as that happens, 5G will go really fast. Smartphones are ready, operators are ready. We need clarity on frequency bands and other terms and conditions.
What will be the challenge for countries like India to catch up with countries that have already deployed 5G?
For India now, for the foreseeable future, if they make sure that the licenses come out and the operators start working on them, there is great potential to do well. 5G will be around for a very long time. At Ericsson, we believe that by 2027, five years later, there will be 3.9 billion 5G subscribers, or 49% of all subscriptions. In five years, it is dominant technology. In 2035, that’s when we might see 6G.
If we take 2027, for India, we expect 500 million 5G subscriptions. You have half a billion smartphones and add IoT (Internet of Things) devices on top of that. So imagine what kind of platform it is for local innovation. There will be a lot of consumer-oriented applications, business applications, that are local.
Much of India’s population is still not connected, especially in rural areas. The prices of mobile telephony for these users are always higher. Will it be difficult to get them on 5G?
As a mobile operator, you want your subscribers to be on the highest possible G (generation) as this provides the best user experience and the most efficient way to deliver the services. There are a number of things that make this difficult, such as cost or preference reasons. As an operator, you have to give them different incentives to go to the top in terms of technology. The mobile operators in India are aware of this and they are trying to do it. We estimate that by 2027, 1.2 smartphone users will be in India alone, which is a very large portion. It can’t be 2G, it will have to be 4G or 5G. We believe 4G is bigger than 5G right now.
A large number of new subscribers by 2027 will be either 4G or 5G, and not inferior technologies. By 2030, a large number of 4G users will switch to 5G as prices come down. There will also be proposals for operators and better services.