5G in focus at India Mobile Congress, but big names missing


The India Mobile Congress (IMC), one of the biggest events in the telecom space, began in New Delhi on Monday with the focus being on 5G. However, the heads of two telecom operators likely to play a leading role in the 5G roll-out were missing in action—Reliance Jio head Mukesh Ambani and Bharti Airtel chief Sunil Bharti Mittal.

But Vodafone Idea chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, who attended the inaugural session along with Bharti Enterprises vice-chairman Rakesh Bharti Mittal and Reliance Jio Infocomm board member Mahendra Nahata, argued for "an enabling regulatory environment" for the sector so that "we can make the necessary" investments to "take the leap for the next wave of growth".  Birla's statement assumes significance as Jio and rivals Airtel and Vodafone have engaged in a verbal duel over interconnect usage charges (IUC), which Jio wants the telecom regulator to scrap.

IT and communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government was in the process of reforming spectrum pricing for the next auction. “Spectrum auction will be conducted in this financial year (2019-20) itself. We are also in the process of undertaking some reform in the spectrum pricing," the minister said at the inaugural session of the third edition of IMC. Prasad later highlighted the fact that India generated the largest amount of data in the world. "I am very keen that India should become a big centre for data analytics, data cleaning, and data refining," he said.

Earlier, in a video address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that IMC was one of the largest digital events in South Asia that showcased knowledge and innovation in the 21st century.

With about 500 companies and 250 startups participating, the booths focussed on showcasing the latest technologies in the space. While connected homes, smart cities, remote healthcare, and cloud-based gaming and multimedia were the dominant themes, Airtel chose to demonstrate the connected capabilities of MG Motor's Hector, while Vodafone picked the Kia Seltos for their demo.

Ericsson, the Swedish telecom equipment maker in association with Airtel also demonstrated its 5G capabilities by organising a music concert where singer Siddharth Mahadevan was linked to the musicians a 100 metres away via this technology. Chinese major Huawei, besides demonstrating its 5G capabilities, also launched HONOR Vision, which it claims to be the world's first smart TV with AI-enabled camera. Chipmakers such as Intel, Qualcomm, and Mediatek were also on hand to showcase technologies powering 5G. Jio also unveiled the Jio Video Call Assistant, an AI-based bot it has developed along with the U.S.-based Radisys, a Reliance subsidiary.

The three-day event, being held in New Delhi's Aerocity, is expected to be attended by around 100,000 visitors, telecom secretary Anshu Prakash said.

Video by Sanjay Rawat.

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