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A recipe for a $5 trillion economy by 2024 (Dealing with the Dragon-V)

India always had problems in dealing with spectrum.

Updated Jun 15, 2020 06:57 AM

A recipe for a $5 trillion economy by 2024 (Dealing with the Dragon-V)

-- We wasted valuable wireless spectrum for fixed line services in 1995, unlike any other country, after the erroneous decision that expensive mobile phones were not for the poor Indians. The decision was reversed in 2004, but led to a lot of inspired criticism by mobile incumbents.

-- Earlier, the government approved a Convergence Bill in 2001, for more efficient use of spectrum, but was not approved. The government/regulator, therefore, approved a Unified Access License in 2004, reduction in interconnect charges and tariff forbearance. But, it took inefficiently long to bring in these changes (it had to be done in stages, by many regulatory efforts). Unified License reduced tariffs 50 times, but increased government revenues. Mobile numbers growth immediately increased 10 times, and gradually 200 times, three times ever the leader, China. 3G spectrum auctions were efficient later, though delayed, and showed the huge loss in 2G allocation and crony capitalism involved, the basis of the CAG report. The allocations led to litigation and differing and controversial judgments by the Supreme Court/CBI Court, the issue still remaining open, but this was one of the issues on which the UPA lost heavily to NDA, in the ultimate court of elections in 2014.

-- 4G auctions were conducted efficiently, even though they were delayed, and now we have come to 5G auction issues, with an ET news item commenting, "India is set to miss the '5G bus' following the lack of preparedness, unavailability of sufficient spectrum, absence of encouraging use cases, and uncertainty around radio waves sale for the next generation of telecom services." This is despite India appointing A.J. Paulraj (winner of the Marconi Prize) Committee to give the recommendations to the steps required. They gave the report in mid-2018, and despite giving the schedule, we have not moved fast. In the past, Prime Minister Modi-led government maintained that it "won't afford to miss 5G bus" like in the case of 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies that were deployed in India way later than many countries, thus losing the many early user advantages.

5G and India: Before we discuss, let us understand the nature of use of 5G. For a layman, 5G is just next generation wireless infrastructure which will provide them voice and data services. However, it will impact much more due to its bit-level intelligence characteristics. 5G will provide an array of network intelligence which will get translated into precise and demand-led resource allocation.

1G came in 1980s and provided basic voice services, 2G in 1990s and enabled voice and SMS services due to its digital standards, 3G came in 2000s and introduced data services along with voice and SMS that enabled multimedia services. 4G pure IP network, came in 2010s, and enabled the application services and partially merged the telecom and information technology which gave boom to platform services.

The architecture of 5G is designed to handle the connection of billions of devices including industrial machines with seamlessness and reliable data transfer with much faster speed. 5G is not only about high speed boost but it is about the intelligence at the bit level and low latency which will make it the foundational tech for multiple new tech., including self-driven cars, AR & VR, telemedicine, robotic surgery, powering future smart cities, IoT, m2m, AI and manufacturing. 5G will change the future war fighting too due to increased situational awareness to increase the command and control of the battlefield. Once these networks come, 2G and 3G networks can be abolished, like in other countries for better overall spectrum utilization. We have not started.

Industrial revolutions and change: It has been shown that industrial revolutions change the world. Hirschman had said that these revolutions occur every 70 years. This was proved in IR 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. The US and the West's GDP went up five to six times in IR 1.0 & 2.0, while India and China went down 10 times (colonial loot was also the reason).

Growth reversal with IR 3.0: But IR 3.0 changed the world with the technology being on a connected net and with globalization, available to the Third World (right from the beginning). Of course, the US helped China a lot post 1980, in technology dispersal, and helping China with accelerated WTO membership in 2001. This led to China growing eight times and India 2.5 times in a few years.

IR 4.0 and 5.0: The world is now moving to the fourth and the fifth industrial revolutions in quick succession. Providentially, these revolutions are also happening on the same wire or wireless lines as in IR 3.0, and we have bright Indian minds working in the digital sector like Nadella, Pichai, Arvind Kuar, Banga, Tata, Kohli, Nilekani, Narayana Murthy, Patni, Soota, Premji, and millions of others located in Silicon Valleys around the world. The most exciting additions to the

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