Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

This piece has been authored by Aryan Gupta, a first year student of B.A.LL.B(Hons.) at the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala.


In the recent years, there has been a tremendous rise in the use of internet technology for various purposes, personal or commercial. From our mobile phones and smart home appliances to the automatically driven Teslas and heavy industrial equipment, everything is internet-enabled and can be controlled remotely. This has only been made possible with the improvement in our network capabilities and an unprecedented rise in the data transfer speeds. Also, in the near future, there will be a new era, one which has already begun, with the introduction of the fifth-generation cellular network technology popularly known as 5G.


The standards for the cellular networks around the world are created by an organization known as the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), [1] formed in the 1990s, which comprises of seven telecommunication standard development organizations. The history of the telecommunication service standards dates back to the later part of 1970s. 1G, or the first-generation cellular network technology, was started in Japan in 1979 and in the USA in 1983. This was a voice only network and got its name only after the release of its successor, the second generation (2G) in 1991 in Finland. It was the first digital standard, introducing text messaging, multimedia messaging (MMS) and encryption. The 3rd Generation or 3G became available in Japan in 2001 and the following year in the United States, its primary advantage was a tremendous boost in data transfer speeds, which led to new developments in the use of internet or networking in various aspects of our lives.[2]

The penultimate development in the field of telecommunication was the introduction of the 4G network in Norway in 2009 which was based on the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) standards. The immense speed gains helped in seamless online streaming to be possible for the first time. The existing networks have been widely used in the Internet of Things (IoT), which is a system of interrelated computing devices that have the ability to transfer data over a network without the interference of humans.

Now, in the present times, telecom companies along with other software and hardware companies are working round the clock to implement the fifth generation of telecommunication standards (5G). Experts believe that the 5G networks could bring data transfer speeds of upto 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps), and that is 600 times faster than the typical 4G speeds.[3] With new infrastructure being rolled out across the world to facilitate the advent of fifth generation networks, South Korea has become the first country to launch a nationwide 5G network in April this year,[4] it was followed by other countries like US and UK, where trials are underway.


There’s more to 5G than just speed. It is being termed as a revolution in the field of internet as we are looking forward to a world where every thing will be connected, cars to the road, hospitals to patients, and smart cities to its residents among other things. The number of internet connected appliances, automobiles and other essential gadgets is increasing day-by-day and hence, the fifth-generation network capabilities which will be unique combination of faster data transfer speeds, very low latency (the delay in response by a network to a request), and superior coverage will be considered as a crucial advancement in the field of Internet of Things (IoT). 5G networks connected with AI systems will also help in making this world a safer place with better and faster emergency services, advanced police systems and assisted technologies.

On the economic front, 5G is set to have a far-reaching impact on the global economies and GDP. In 2016, mobile network services had a 4.4 percent share in the GDP all around the world or about a $3.3 trillion share in monetary terms, economists estimate that the global monetary share of the 5G network technologies will reach $12 trillion by 2035.[5] The introduction of 4G had alone added a $100 billion to USA’s GDP and therefore the impact of 5G can be considered to be much greater.[6] It will generate new revenue across different sectors of the economy and will also inspire new growth in the sectors of Core Technology and Component Suppliers, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs),Application Developers and Content Creators. But at the same time, a 5G economy will introduce a new level of complexity to policymaking and regulation as new businesses emerge and old ones are dramatically altered or abandoned.

Also, many legal and technological roadblocks like the issue of privacy which is a global phenomenon and the issue of spectrum allocation[7] which can be considered an Indian problem, need to be overcome for this advancement to be termed revolutionary. According to Steve Bellovin[8], professor and former researcher at Bells Labs and AT&T Labs Research, 5G could mean more cell towers, hence more location privacy concerns along with the Huawei being accused of data theft[9], a major issue regarding the development of 5G.


In India, the 5G network standards have not yet made a debut, even at the trial stages. But the same has been slated for a late year-end or an early 2020 start.[10] Although foreign companies like Huawei[11] have applied for 5G trials in India, the government has denied permission due to various reasons which include external pressure from the United States. Still, according to the Union Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, "the government will be open to assist and to facilitate and guide and to motivate, but in turn will expect the telecom operators to reinforce their own management, technology and services."[12] The government has started many initiatives to advance innovation and research in 5G like the, ‘Building an End-to-End 5G Test Bed’ programme under which it has set up many test-beds in various IITs and other research institutes. [13] Thus, the introduction of the fifth-generation mobile network technology can be foreseen in the near future in our country.

This radical change in the telecom industry will result in a drastic impact on our economy. Experts estimate that 5G technology will be prevalent in India across services by as early as 2024, as seen before in a similar expansion of the 4G networks.[14] Once that happens, it will help in breaking the traditional barriers to development and the outcome will extend to wireless services which will add to industrial, educational, healthcare, commercial, agricultural, social and financial sectors. It is also estimated that it the cumulative economic impact of 5G on India could reach $1 trillion by 2035.[15]

With more than a billion telecommunication network subscribers in India,[16] most of them being from the lower and middle classes, it will be huge challenge for the government and telecom companies to mainstream the use of 5G in India. Government has to work on making the 5G technology affordable and inclusive for everyone. But, overcoming this challenge will have promising and widespread impact on our telecom sector which in turn can lead to an everlasting change in the Indian economy and even the society at large.

[1] About 3GPP, (Oct. 2, 2019, 3:31 PM), https://www.3gpp.org/about-3gpp/about-3gpp.

[2] Merlin Stone, The evolution of the telecommunications industry — What can we learn from it?, (Oct 5, 2019, 5:09 PM), https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057/dddmp.2014.80.

[3] Bevin Fletcher, Verizon 5G performs over 800% faster than LTE, Speedtest data shows, (Oct 3, 2019, 4:47 PM), https://www.fiercewireless.com/5g/verizon-5g-performs-over-800-faster-than-lte-speedtest-data-shows.

[4] South Korea launches first national 5G networks, (Oct. 1, 2019, 1:09 PM), https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/info-tech/south-korea-launches-first-national-5g-networks/article26743241.ece.

[5] Steve Harris, The trillion dollar race: what 5G means to the global economy