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Economizing 5G Technology

We could handle pandemics through a long tenure of lockdowns and our own vaccine. We have to move ahead for 5-G technology with the same spirit.  — Alok Singh


Telecommunications has emerged as the core infrastructure of the business. New economics is telecommunication dependent economics. Its horizon has expanded to social life and hence impacts social values. Speed is undoubtedly the factor that will determine the success or failure of the business, society, and the service provider. It is such a technology that we have witnessed it to be more demanding than drinking water. During the pandemic, telecommunication technology has demonstrated its relevance. We need the best telecommunication infrastructure, the best telecommunication service provider, the best telecommunication-dependent business practices, and the best telecommunication equipment. We simply can’t ignore them. If we postpone them then we are lagging behind. The question is at what cost we need all these. The question is what the tradeoff we are willing to offer is. The answer lies to figure out the optimum delay so that terms of self-reliance are not diluted. The answer is the resources that we have to put in urgently to destroy the constraints in the self-reliance of 5-G technology access. We need to prioritize our applications of 5-G technology. We have to separate vulnerable from the non-vulnerable arena. Whatever we have done urgently we have succeeded. The Covid vaccine comes as a guiding example. 

The shelf life of technology is small. We can jump to new technology by bypassing the intermediate technology. We have provided telecommunication services to rural people without giving them access to landline phones. Such people have experienced a sudden change of state without following the step-by-step up-gradation sequence. Simply one day they used the smartphone. Our citizens have experienced what they could not even dream about in their lifetime. Our underprivileged citizens have experienced spontaneously access to voice messages, video calls, and social sector schemes.

Is it not unbelievable that even illiterates who can’t read and write but can send and receive voice messages through Whatsapp? The big technology companies know this better than anyone. These big technology companies know that their customer base is not restricted to urban elites or urban middle class or urban job seekers. They know their new business is in urban slums and rural illiterates or under-educated habitants. The politician knows well that their vote bank lies in slums and villages. They put their effort and resources into that large chunk of vote bank. The same way the big technology companies desperately advocate for 5-G technology so that they can control our people in a better way and with little incremental effort.

The 5-G technology is needed for the functioning of devices and services which use the internet of things and artificial intelligence. The data is food for such applications. The non-availability of 5-G is the hurdle in the implementation of such disruptive technologies.  The direct cost of such services is bearable but what about those which are invisible, unseen, and attacks when we are most vulnerable.  The direct or visible costs are the monthly plan and the device price. We have seen during the introduction of Reliance Jio how the device was bundled with the service and the customers switched to their plan and they were also successfully able to add a new customer base and also improve the profile of telecommunication density in the country. The government was also pleased, and at the same time able to implement social benefit schemes successfully in a very short period of time. But what about technologies which we can’t control. We have to be careful with long-term ramifications. The companies which offer the services are in hurry, the equipment manufacturers are in hurry, the government also seems to be in hurry. But are the consumers also in hurry?

We have to make our consumers aware of the data which they are sharing on smartphone and how their choices are being manipulated. The long term trap of controlling the customer, controlling the business, and dictating what to eat, what to wear, what education to get, and what to do to earn for a living are the concerns which already exist but 5-G will create more challenges to save ourselves.

We need to understand and spread awareness that digitalization and 5-G technology are totally different things. We need digital currency, digital land records, digital health records, digital transfer of a social benefit, digital education, digital banking but the 5-G devices should be reliable, homemade, under the control of our people and our government. For illustration, the internet of things and artificial intelligence along with 5-G can control our agriculture practices. We are struggling to arrest the intruding of big seeds companies, pesticides companies, and chemical fertilizers companies in our farmland. They control our plate. Imagine the situation when these will be supplemented by services of big databases and the monitoring capability which the upcoming 5-G enabled technology companies will sell them. These two can collaborate or compete or destroy each other. Whatever these Bio-Company and 5-G enabled companies do is their matter but it is our serious concern. But their common goal is money minting and controlling the population. Our sovereignty is in danger. Our economy is moving in a new trap with a new global tool.

We are not 5G device ready. We have to look for architects of 5-G technology who are our own people. Wherever in the world, such an individual live has to come here and design the 5-G technology-enabled devices. The government has to support with grants and subsidies - the fabrication plant for 5-G compatible semiconductors. We can’t do temporary adjustments always. These temporary adjustments are becoming permanent. We have done things on our own. The live example of ICMR and Bharat Biotech vaccine i.e. Covaxin has surprised the world. The big pharmaceutical companies are mending their ways.  

These adjustments in terms of royalty, patent, intellectual property rights, trade secrets are not in our favor. These favor us if and only if we are strong. We could handle pandemics through a long tenure of lockdowns and our own vaccine. We have to move ahead for 5-G technology with the same spirit. Delayed implementation, our own device, and our own regulatory framework. Is the government ready with 5-G compatible regulatory policies?         

(Alok Singh is a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Management Indore and currently is faculty of general management at NICMAR, Delhi-NCR Campus.)

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