It takes time for every ecosystem to thrive and mature. Take the golden age of streaming for example. The video streaming revolution truly kicked off in 2007, when a certain company headquartered in Los Gatos, California, decided to bring seamless online streaming of movies and shows to users. 4G networks, which began to emerge in the early 2010s, acted as a propulsive tailwind for the video streaming industry. More than a decade later, we are all reaping the fruits of a flourishing ecosystem that brings exciting, diverse content, further aided by cutting-edge devices.

And here we are, on the exciting road to another promising ecosystem that has everyone, from industry leaders to end consumers, excited about 5G. The technology offers innovations with 10Gbps data rates, 1ms latency, 1000x bandwidth per unit area, and 100% coverage. For a technology as sophisticated and complicated as 5G, it requires many moving pieces to come together and form a whole, apart from the spectrum at the core of 5G. The 5G handset ecosystem needs to grow in tandem, as OEMs play a key role in the entire value chain. Given the transformational power of the technology, we must take cognisance of the crucial signposts on the road to the 5G handset ecosystem as well.

Bringing value through product and pricing strategy

As customers around the world evolve, product life cycles get shorter, and new technologies come into play, the onus is on OEMs to anticipate challenges and plan portfolios accordingly. I believe that the planning and preparation for commercialised 5G devices should kick off now, starting with the R&D stage to test compatibility with all the varied requirements. While manufacturers are harnessing the power of the latest nanoscale processors for high performance, there is also the need to integrate the entire 5G cellular system design into devices without compromising the experience. Planning will help curb the risk of lengthy product development cycles and faulty products, barriers to accessibility with justified price points, and bottlenecks in the supply chain. Product evolution does not happen overnight and not in silos. This is why OEMs are also infusing products to target demographics, implementing feedback in development, evaluating testing and certification, and engaging in dialogues with communication service providers for collaboration and bundling plans. As any intelligent industry will do, the idea is to hit the ground running, rather than be laggards.

The trump card of innovation

When great minds come together, miracles happen. Take the case of UPI (United Payments Interface) for example. The mobile-based, real-time payments platform has garnered massive popularity with its design simplicity and interoperability and is now a case study in other global markets as well. To complement the power of 5G processors, 5G handsets will need to evolve on the aspects of the display, camera, performance, design, fast charging capabilities, hardware, and software as well. Similarly, a cohesive cross-collaboration among industry leaders, startups, academia and researchers, government authorities, and investors is required for 5G innovation to flourish. For one, creating innovation clusters with focus areas for use cases, investor-friendly policies, and adequate innovation governance models will unlock new capacities and drive momentum. Manufacturers can turn ideas into reality in a shorter time and birth better expertise, product diversification, and job growth in the long run. India currently occupies the 48th spot on the Global Innovation Index. And with the right push, I am sure we will rise to the Top 10 in a few years.

Nurture the gold mine of talent

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, 5G smartphone shipments are expected to account for 69% of global shipments by 2025. Considering the staggering volumes we will have at hand, a large number part of the workforce needs to be upskilled and re-skilled in hardware components, and connectivity nuances. Experienced technicians well-versed in repair, upgrades, and regular maintenance of 5G-enabled phones will be sought after too. While companies have partnered with academic institutions to develop specific skill-set-based training models, every OEM must do its bit to build a learning culture. This can involve building and showcasing simulations of 5G-based use cases and case studies, create training programmes on next-gen technologies, and reward professional development. Change starts from within. So, organisations need to go on an awareness drive so that employees can understand why 5G adoption is critical and be open to learning new skills and approaches.

“What is now proved was once only imagined.” If I may go a step further, what is only in our imagination now has the potential to transform into reality. 5G is a GDP multiplier, and with manifold use cases across industries, and opportunities for different players in the value chain, it will generate jobs and add more revenues to the economy. As I said, every ecosystem needs to breathe, draw resources, thrive, and mature, while every stakeholder plays out its part, including the OEMs in the value chain.

Views are personal. The author is vice president, realme, and CEO, realme India and Europe.

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