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Looking ahead to 2024 in India: 5G, rural connectivity and satcom

Find out what 2024 is likely to have in store for the Indian telecom industry.

Gagandeep Kaur

December 15, 2023

3 Min Read
Person walking outside of the Airtel building
(Source: Steve Jurvetson on Flickr)

The coming year will be crucial for the Indian telecom industry, under pressure to make a return on 5G investment even as the satcom ecosystem grows. It could also be the year when India's telecom duopoly becomes more pronounced, while rural connectivity may finally start to get some attention from telcos. 

Here are a few trends likely to dominate the Indian telecom industry in 2024:  

5G monetization: Year of FWA and private networks

With the top two telcos, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, close to completing the pan-India rollout of the 5G network, attention is turning to the issue of 5G monetization. For more than a year, both telcos have been offering unlimited 5G data at the cost of 4G. But they are likely to introduce 5G-specific tariffs soon.

"The lack of killer 5G user cases for the consumer industry and the high cost of 5G smartphones are reasons why the telecom service providers have not seen growth in revenues post launch of 5G services," said Sunil David, co-chair of the Digital Communications working group at the IET Future Tech Panel.

5G-enabled private networks are yet to take off in India. This is mainly because it is still unclear if the government will allocate spectrum to enterprises. While the enterprises have been demanding administrative allocation of the spectrum, the telcos are saying it should be auctioned. The resolution of that issue will partly determine the future shape of 5G private networks in the country.

Even so, the enterprise segment is likely to play a crucial role in the monetization of 5G, as in other parts of the world. "Enterprises are looking for solution providers who have the ability to stitch and integrate different technologies together that can address the business challenges and, hence, deliver value," said David. "This is where the telecom service providers can play the role of an ecosystem orchestrator by collaborating with device manufacturers, hyperscale cloud providers, startups etc, and thus be the one-stop shop provider for enterprises."

The fixed wireless access (FWA) segment is also going to see heated activity in the coming year as the top two telcos fight for market leadership. 

Rural connectivity? 

A recent study by IAMAI and Kantar says that 56% of new telecom users between now and 2025 are likely to come from rural India. In addition, the report reveals that there are more social media users in rural India than in urban India. As India's digital ecosystem grows, the service providers will need to rethink their strategy for the country's hinterland. The expansion of the 4G and 5G networks mean rural and remote parts of the country may finally have access to quality connectivity.     

How do you solve a problem like Vodafone Idea?

Another year has passed and Vodafone Idea has been unable to report any success in attracting investment. The country’s third-largest service provider has been reeling under massive debt. And with the passing of time, its chances of securing funds have faded.

With Vodafone Idea's profile diminishing, the industry is increasingly turning into a duopoly. This will be all the more pronounced in the coming year because Vodafone Idea has yet even to announce its 5G vendors. Retaining subscribers will be tough: 5G services are likely to become mainstream in 2024, making the challenge of competing against Jio and Airtel even harder. 

Will Jio start selling its 5G solution in 2024?

The world is waiting with bated breath to see what Jio has got up its sleeve. Recently, Jio's president, Matthew Oommen, said that the company is ready to work with global telcos for its 5G stack and it will be made available as an integrated solution. This is likely to happen in 2024.

Growing satellite communications ecosystem

With India clearing the India Space Policy 2023 and providing approval to Eutelsat OneWeb to offer satellite-based connectivity services in 2023, the coming year will be an important one for the development of the satcom ecosystem. Other players like JioSpaceFiber, Elon Musk's SpaceX and Amazon's Project Kuiper are likely to secure licenses. Several players could feasibly be offering satellite-based services in 2024.

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About the Author(s)

Gagandeep Kaur

Contributing Editor

With more than a decade of experience, Gagandeep Kaur Sodhi has worked for the most prominent Indian communications industry publications including Dataquest, Business Standard, The Times of India, and Voice&Data, as well as for Light Reading. Delhi-based Kaur, who has knowledge of and covers a broad range of telecom industry developments, regularly interacts with the senior management of companies in India's telecom sector and has been directly responsible for delegate and speaker acquisition for prominent events such as Mobile Broadband Summit, 4G World India, and Next Generation Packet Transport Network.

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