Govt goes gung-ho with 5G rollout


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By Sanjay Singh

New Delhi, November 1: Giving a big push to develop the 5G ecosystem in India with aims to boost Digital India initiative, the Centre has approved ₹26,000 crore to install new 25,000 mobile telecom towers in the next 500 days to utilise the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).

According to the Electronics and IT minister, Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Centre has also announced capital expenditure assistance worth ₹2,000 crore to states. As per the minister, the list of areas where mobile towers will be installed is being prepared with states. Vaishnaw, during three-day ‘Digital India Conference of State IT Ministers’, said the government is focussing on creating over one crore digital jobs and achieving the $1 trillion digital economy target by 2026.

The minister also approved ₹1.64 lakh crore for the revival of state-run telecom company BSNL. He said the revival plan will be rolled out in the next 18 months. The minister had on October 1 launched 5G services.

The much-awaited rollout came after 5G spectrum auctions, in which 51,236 MHz spectrum was allocated to telcos, generating up to ₹1,50,173 crore for the government. The Centre expects the total economic impact of 5G on India at $450 billion by 2035. This will not only lead to higher mobile penetration in one of the thriving markets but there will be several use cases in education, health, worker safety, and smart agriculture.

India’s telecom service providers are also gearing up for 5G rollout. Reliance Jio plans to roll out 5G services in major metropolitan cities this month and country-wide by the end of 2023. Bharti Airtel also plans to launch 5G services by the end of September 2022 in select cities and cover urban India by the end of 2023.

Interestingly, Internet users in India have increased to 80 crore from 6 crore in 2014. At the same time, from less than 100 panchayats connected to optical fiber in 2014, the number has now risen to 1.7 lakh. Also, India ranks among nations with the lowest data cost in the world, which has come down from ₹300 per GB to about ₹10 rupee per GB.

The mobile internet penetration is expected to increase from 48.9% in 2021 to 78.1% in 2027 on remote or hybrid work, and high demand for online entertainment, online learning, and digital payment services. Mobile internet boost in rural and remote areas will also drive internet penetration.

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