This article originally appeared on TheHindu.com.
Mobile telephony has been making rapid strides in technology. Every decade or so, a new generation of network technology promises more speed, capacity, quality and uses.
With each generation, network operators invest capital to upgrade their infrastructure, with the firm belief that those investments will lead to more satisfied customers and reinvigorated revenues and profits.
The latest debate is about 5G technology and, how wise it is to implement it, despite the tremendous speed and potential it has displayed, even in India. "Why rush to invest in 5G now?" ask pessimists, when technologies that will impel users to demand higher speeds and more bandwidth are still years from being ready.
India’s experience so far
Over the last 18-24 months, 4G has led to a steep increase in the amount of data we consume. According to Nokia’s annual “Mobile Broadband Index,” released late last year, 82% of the growth in mobile traffic in India in 2017 came from 4G. The traffic grew 135% year over year, driven by video, which contributed 65-75% of total mobile data traffic. Average consumption of data by an Indian subscriber has grown to more than 11 gigabytes (GB) of data per user per month, on a par with other developed markets. Clearly, the rapid growth of 4G in India has strained networks.
Dinkar Ayilavarapu and Herbert Blum are partners with Bain & Company and lead the Telecom practice in India and the Americas, respectively. Vikram Chandrashekhar is a principal at Bain’s New Delhi office.