India is as prepared as US or Australia to welcome the 5G era
- Indian businesses will have more to gain from 5G connectivity than consumers initially.
- 5G connectivity will help more IoT devices come online and make the economy more efficient.
- Simultaneously companies and businesses will have to think about security in a new way as 5G networks roll out.
"India's in a similar situation as Singapore, as Australia or as the US when it comes to a lot of risks associated with 5G — the technology is the same technology," Scott Stevens, Senior Vice President of Global Systems Engineering at Palo Alto Networks, told Business Insider.
Indian businesses will have more to gain initially but it's only a matter of time before consumers will gain as the network matures. And, it's going to help industries be more efficient by facilitating the Internet of Things (IoT) build up.
"We'll have many smarter sensors because we can. And, they can start to solve problems for us and allow us to be more efficient," said Stevens.
At the same time, governments and companies will have to think about security in a new way as they think about implementing 5G.
"As more devices are connected and more powerful devices connected, we're going to have to take a fresh look at how we secure 5G and making sure that it's safe — that it is able to deliver services to everybody all the time and is not impacted by whatever malicious actors want to do in the world these days," explained Stevens.
5G is expensive
Mobile operators in India are currently trying to delay the 5G spectrum auction on the grounds that there aren't enough use cases for it yet. Telecom companies are still staggering under the debt of offering cheap 4G data
"One of the challenges in India is the standard problem of how expensive the spectrum can be and making sure the business case is there for the operators to build," said Stevens.
Malicious malware knows no boundaries
Every country has its own rules and regulations when it comes to data privacy and protection — and they're all evolving at a slightly different pace. India's Personal Data Protection Bill is yet to clear the parliament and become law.
But malicious software is not limited by geography.
"Threat actors don't really believe in national and state boundaries. They're opportunities. If they find vulnerabilities, they exploit that," noted Stevens.
"The virtualisation of the infrastructure is the same. The major vendors which provide this infrastructure are the same major vendors. So, Airtel's going to use similar infrastructure that Telstra's going to use with a little reservicing," he explained.
And, attacking 5G networks isn't just about stealing data. Most IoT devices don't hold a lot of information but they do have computing power. Even if it's marginal power per device, if enough of them are put together, it adds up to a significant amount.
4G will work fine as consumers wait for 5G
"A lot of the initial evolution is on the spectrum side but not necessarily on upgrading every chain in the network. So, 4G still works fine," said Stevens.
According to him, 4G and 5G will coexist for quite a while since a lot of devices don't speak 5G yet. "Nothing is happening overnight. There's no flash moment where we reverse which side of the street we drive on," he explained.
And, businesses will reap the benefits ahead of consumers — initially. They'll be able to function more efficiently not only because the 5G has greater capacity to collect data but also because it will make things cheaper.
In manufacturing, for instance, wiring up a warehouse is an expensive process which can be replaced by IoT sensors instead. 5G creates an opportunity for the industry to connect to the network in a new way and remove some of dependencies on Wi-Fi or physically connecting to a network.
Some companies might even shift over from building computer networks to leveraging the 5G network to deliver their services.
"It provides the opportunity for an economy to become more efficiency because that connectivity is now available in many places," said Stevens.
Consumers might have to wait a little longer as 5G matures and the ecosystem stabilises.
"Pokemon Go wasn't why we invested 4G but it turns out it was kind of fun for us! And so, there will be interesting new opportunities for services that weren't available previously or things that we never really conceived before," said Stevens.
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