5G Ready India?

India awaits firming up of the roadmap for the 5G Rollout amidst one of the biggest disputes between Telcos and DoT. Despite the whopping 1.47Lakh Crore that the dispute involves, the market is confident that a resolution by way of compliance or a compromise formula will eventually emerge. With telcos beginning to meet the DoT and SC deadlines for part payments, the ground preparations for the much awaited 5G Spectrum Auction are also warming up. With the auctions expected to happen in the first quarter of the coming Financial Year, news about 5G device launches and 5G focussed startup pitches are trickling in.

3D Advantage

5G, unlike 4G LTE, is not an “incremental” upgrade but a “replacement” technology. Every once in a while replacement technologies emerge in different spaces and bring along not just unseen advantages but also unexpected fallouts.
Unlike the uni-dimensional 4G, 5G is 3D. The 3 Dimensions of 5G:
a. Enhanced Mobile Broadband: For Capacity enhancement for higher mobile & data penetration
b. Low Latency: For ultra-high reliability on the network for highly sensitive applications
c. Massive IoT – For always-on connectivity across wider geography

The practical applications of the 3D advantage will be seen in areas like entertainment & infotainment with high quality streaming at gigabytes per second, home and enterprise cloud applications, augmented reality, industrial & vehicular automation, autonomous vehicles, remote medical robotic processes, smart city layouts and eGovernance. The tech innovations apart, developments in such areas and associated domains, will generate huge opportunities for employment and upskilling.

Challenges Galore

While benefits in value would be difficult to compute, the challenges that the rollout is expected to deal with are easier to list out. On the infrastructure end, an estimated 200Bn worth equipment has to be procured and setup. Given that telcos are and would be cash strapped after the AGR dispute, it’s fingers crossed about the funds mop up for the procurement. Also with FDI in the Telecom space shrinking by a massive 43% in FY2019, it could be a serious cash crunch challenge that 5G rollout will encounter in the short-term.
The other challenge is that of 5G ready Skills. The 3Dimensional and Replacement tech nature of 5G will make a large number of 4G skills redundant. Apart from the phasing out of certain skillsets, 5G also demands fresh talent with newer skillsets for and from the future. The Telco talent gap in India’s 5G roadmap is expected to be over 150K professionals when all operators hit the road. This number will only enlarge as the actual rollouts begin and demand for 5G linked solutions and development skills will increase. Talent demand from 5G powered startups can only be computed as the innovations begin, but the numbers are expected to be sizable over the next 5 years.
While talent maybe drawn from other domains and upskilled, there isn’t a count yet on talent that would be displaced. 5G is a high Capital and OPEX game and operators would look to optimise costs by automating and displacing physical headcounts. The talent redeployment and outplacement challenges will also marginally slowdown the pace of the 5G rollout’s latter end.

5G Skills & Job Opportunities

5G will bring forth the need and demand for “hybrid engineers”. The sheer nature of 5G tech that involves solutions to work on infrastructure, physical devices, virtual, data and digital spaces, demands multi-skilled engineers with a wider skillset range. While single-tech or functional specialists will continue to be in demand, the new breed of hybrid engineers with heterogenous skillsets will be the stars. Hybrid engineers from being readily deployable will also be highly transferable.

For example, a network engineer with Cisco or Juniper Certification with skills in script and experience in open source software with exposure to wearables and IoT devices will be picked up like hot-cake!

The Hybrid Upgrade

Becoming and being a hybrid engineer in the 5G space would demand major upskilling and commitment from the current population of Telecom engineers. The upskilling investments to be done by pure blood Telecom engineers will be in areas of:
LTE Advanced Pro
LTE Advanced Pro is sequentially the next stage following LTE and LTE-Advanced (LTE-A). LTE Adv Pro is the also known as 4.5G that’s interim in the development towards 5G.
Self Organized Networks (SON)
SON aims at simplifying network operations and management tasks by configuring, optimizing and healing itself. SON is a key driver for improving Operations, Administration, and Maintenance (OAM) activities in advanced 4G and 5G networks.
Cloud-Radio Access Network (C-RAN)
5G will result in the explosion of data traffic on the network and network operators optimise and reduce cost of operations by centralizing and placing the RAN in the cloud. C-RAN is cheaper for operators in terms of capex and opex.
HetNet
HetNet is short for heterogeneous network which best describes the multi-device and multi-layered 5G network. Essentially the ability to logically and operationally create a collection of different networks.
Mesh Networks & IoT
Meshnet is the ideal infra for an IOT ecosystem. Meshnet is essentially a changeover from the traditional hierarchical network architecture. Meshnets support multi-nodal direct and non-hierarchical connectivity between devices and sub-networks.

– Mobile Edge Computing
– Massive MIMO (Multiple Input-Multiple Output)
– NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) & SDN (Software Defined Networking)
– Network Slicing

Engineers with three or more of these skills and a roadmap to progressively add more to their skillsets list will command a premium over other monochrome talents.

Specialists (still) Wanted

While the rise of hybrid engineers will be witnessed, the early stages of the 5G rollout will demand large number of Technical Specialists like:
– RF SON Engineers
– Small Cells Engineers
– Cloud and IoT Engineers and Architects
– Orchestration Engineers
– 5G RF Antenna Researchers
– 5G Algorithm Experts
– Fibre-skilled Architects & Engineers

For Engineers and Programmers seeking an upward movement or a fresh entry in Telecom powered by 5G, the following domains and skills should be the Top focus to develop or enhance through experiences and certifications:

Domains Skills to Build
Application Platforms Share Point, Apache Spark, OpenStack
Cloud Services Office365, AWS, Dynamics 365, Azure
Database & Business Intelligence FileMaker, Hadoop
Programming Languages C, Python, C++, MATLAB, Java, Perl, Shell Script
System Software vSphere, Docker, KVM

 

While some of the Telcos have commenced as early starters with internal upskilling programs, a large number of private institutions and training bodies have launched 5G focussed training and certification programs. Online course providers like Udemy and Coursera also have interactive course content that are picking up traction among engineers.

Anyone looking to upskilling on 5G will have a choice of picking up areas of learning like 5G Technology, 5G Planning, Vo5G, Core Network, 5G Security, 5G Migration, 5G IoT and 5G System & Application Design.

– 5G Technology
Engineers with basic telecom experience will need to understand how computing intelligence embedded in 5G networks enable wider data bandwidth and less latency which are key differentiators. This stream of learning will cover 5G fundamentals, standards, design & architecture basics, fog computing and ultra dense networks.

– 5G Planning
5G use case identification, coverage analysis for 5G, site planning, traffic modelling, 5G simulation parameters, network propagation models, small cells planning and site planning

– Vo5G
Voice over 5G refers to the voice services provided by the 5th generation mobile technologies. Voice & Video communication over 5G, transition from Voice over LTE to Voice over New Radio

– 5GC – Core Network
5G core functions as the anchor point for multiple access technologies and multiple devices interfaces. Network slicing, dual & multi-connectivity and physical / virtual layers of network.

– 5G Security
The multi-device and multi-layered characteristic of 5G networking will pose new and complex challenges to information security and data safety both in transit and in storage. Understanding and mastering the threat landscape of 5G will be a much sought after skill to develop among engineers.

– 5G Migration
Migration from Evolved Packet Core (EPC) that powers 4G LTE to 5GC is key to 5G rollout.

– 5G IoT
Methods and architecture to exploit the always-on nature and low latency of 5G to establish a mature and comprehensive IOT ecosystem.

– 5G System & Application Design
Design and development of services, applications and utilities powered by 5G.

5G Jobs – India

Direct Employment by Telcos and Telecom Infrastructure companies for their 5G workforce is on a simmer with a readiness to shift gears to volume recruitment once the rollout flagoff happens. There are currently a little over 800 active direct 5G associated jobs that demand experience and exposure to 5G technologies.

Few of the high stake openings currently available for Top Professionals are:

– Head of Radio Network Planning (Chennai; 18 – 23 Yrs Experience; Salary Range: 50L – 1Cr)
– Lead Architect & Developer 5GNR 5G (Bangalore; 7 – 12 Yrs Experience; Salary Range: 35L to 60L)
– Solution Architect – LTE (EPC)/ 5G (3 – 8 Yrs Experience; Salary Range: 25L to 40L)
– RAN Integration Head
– Network Program Director – ENODEB/GNODEB/LTE Access Stratum Protocols
– Head – Integration Management

Top Employers

Some of the current top openings for these skillsets are with employers like Nokia Networks, Ciena Corporation, VMware and Oracle India. Developer, architect and program management openings with 5G skills are available with companies like Intel Technology, Tech Mahindra, Qualcomm and Wipro.

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