The era of 5G of mobile networks will not simply be about more throughput and speeds.These are obvious outcomes.The real power of 5G will be in unleashing connectivity among the unconnected — and "unconnected" will not primarily mean people. 5G will not be providing solutions to reach out to the lowest strata of society that remains to be "connected". So, do not expect 5G to help widen the user base.
The essence of 5G is about creating a mesh between humans and things. While it will continue to enhance the communication experiences of humans with humans, the main focus of the technology will be on creating channels of communication for things-to-things and humans-to-things. This is why the Internet of Things (IoT) is the centrepiece of the 5G era.
There is already a lot of literature from technology creators like Qualcomm, Ericsson and others on the characteristics of 5G as well as IoT. And India too will follow the global trend where the initial 5G technology implementation will mean integrating and connecting objects with humans.
Smartphones will undeniably retain their relevance in the 5G era. They will remain the default interface between humans and the connected environment around. However, what will excite the entire value chain, in terms of displaying of technology innovations, business opportunities and creating value out of the communications infrastructure, will predominantly be other connected and smart devices and gadgets.
This will trigger an upgrade in terms of specifications of smartphones so that users actually use the technology embedded in the infrastructure and other bits. What will excite everyone down the value chain will be the integration of technology and intelligence running over it through artificial intelligence (AI) and other such interventions.
This will mean greater excitement around the launch and display of what is referred to as "ConnectedX" (a bouquet of devices that would get connected in due course of time).
In the Indian context, smartphones have been exciting the market for around a decade now. However, in the coming decade, smartphones alone will not steal the limelight. There will be more connected devices and gadget — including some that we have not even visualised yet — and all of them will be propelled by the underlying 5G power.
This means that companies showcasing solutions around IoT based on 4G connectivity will actually have to speed up to launch their 5G-based solutions in the next couple of years.
We saw the smartphone trend eventually leading to 4G and becoming the default cellular connectivity in just a span of three years; it is highly likely that "IoTification" will predominantly happen through 5G, and 4G connectivity may remain relevant for just a couple of years in that era.
While the media and other channels of promotion in future will not see the same interest in the launch of smartphones, the ecosystem in India — especially home-grown handset makers — have to align their strategic roadmap to remain in the business for the next decade.
The R&D capabilities of these brands in smartphones were limited and restricted. However, it is time for them to prepare for the long-haul and get set for the coming 5G opportunity.
(Faisal Kawoosa is the General Manager-Research & Consulting with CyberMedia Research. His core areas of research include Telecommunications and ESDM. The views expressed here are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)