From smart ambulances to the metaverse, how 5G can affect your life

With telcos eyeing 5G deployment, India is poised for dramatically improved data speeds and lag-free video, where applications will range from connected ambulances to cloud gaming and even augmented reality trials for shoppers, experts say.

The fifth generation, or 5G, would allow a high-quality full-length video or movie to be downloaded to mobile devices and other devices within seconds (even in crowded areas or at large events) and support a million devices in one square kilometer.

Ultra-fast speeds (about 10 times faster than 4G), low-latency connectivity, enabling billions of connected devices to share data in real-time, promise to unleash more immersive entertainment, 3D hologram calls, metaverse experiences and redefining educational applications, even and the way people play or watch sports.

While Indian consumers will soon see the rollout of 5G in select cities, followed by wider coverage in 12-18 months, improved mobile broadband is expected to be the initial primary use case.

New technology over a period of time would give life to applications that might have sounded far-fetched just a few years ago.

Retailers are embracing augmented reality (AR) in a 5G environment to curate immersive shopping experiences that allow customers to see what a new piece of furniture would look like in their homes.

5G with high-tech gadgets can change the way education is delivered, even in remote areas, say by hosting educators or guest speakers via electronic holograms or streaming mixed reality content into classrooms.

Earlier this year, Airtel partnered with Apollo Hospitals and Cisco to demonstrate a 5G-connected ambulance that acts as an emergency room extension that transmits real-time patient telemetry data, including vitals, to doctors and specialists at the hospital.

The idea is to use the ‘golden hour’ or critical first ’60 minutes’ after any injury or trauma where immediate medical attention can save lives.

The 5G connected ambulance has medical equipment, patient monitoring applications and telemetry devices that transmit the patient’s health data to the hospital. It features built-in cameras, camera-based headgear and body cameras for paramedics, connected to the ultra-high-speed, low-latency 5G network.

These life-saving applications are further enabled by technologies such as AR/VR (Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality). The demonstration was held in Bangalore on the trial 5G spectrum granted to Airtel by the Ministry of Telecom.

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Another prime example is 5G VR cloud gaming, an idea that market watchers say will excite gamers. Reliance Jio has tested a virtual reality or VR enabled multiplayer cloud gaming experience on its domestic 5G network.

This test marks a major upgrade from console-based cloud gaming, as many gamers connect to Jio’s low-latency 5G network using their VR headsets and gaming accessories.

Direct haptic feedback (haptic feedback or 3D touch), gesture controls as well as VR rendering take advantage of the high bandwidth and low latency on Jio’s 5G network, allowing players to respond to gameplay in real-time with reflexive actions.

“Reliable sports and other streaming genres with no lag or lag, mobile and cloud gaming, Internet of Things for consumers and AR/VR for immersive experiences… there are many use cases for 5G in the consumer space,” says Nishant Bansal, Senior Research Director, Telecom at IDC India.

Manufacturing and healthcare are likely to be among the key 5G adopters.

“In manufacturing, to develop and operate smart factories to improve efficiency and productivity and minimize human error. Industrial automation through the use of robotics and the ‘digital twin’ are some of the other possible examples for use in manufacturing “, he notes.

According to a report by Swedish telecom equipment company Ericsson, 5G subscriptions in India are expected to reach 500 million by the end of 2027, accounting for 39 percent of mobile subscribers.

“5G and immersive technology will fundamentally change the way we live, work and consume information and media,” said Nitin Bansal, managing director, Ericsson India.

He cited an Ericsson report titled Unleashing the Potential of 5G Consumers to highlight a range of digital services that will be redefined with 5G and immersive experience, such as live sports streaming, enhanced video, cloud gaming, augmented/virtual reality and IoT services for consumers.

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Other use cases include autonomous cars (sharing data to avoid road collisions), 5G facial recognition payment, 3D hologram calls, AR maps, real-time translations, drone delivery, virtual shopping and more, he said.

An executive at a major telecommunications services company who did not want to be named said young professionals, tech enthusiasts and businesses will quickly opt for 5G, despite the potential price premium for such services.

While tariffs and plans will be announced by the telcos closer to the launch dates, analysts expect average monthly realizations measured as average revenue per user to be up to 20 percent higher with 5G than 4G.

“Mobile data prices in India are the lowest in the world and even with 10-20 percent higher ARPU than 4G, India’s mobile data prices with 5G will still be the lowest in the world for consumers,” says IDC’s Bansal.

Vodafone Idea recently said it expects 5G to be priced at a premium with more data bundled with plans compared to 4G services.

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