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Connectivity has become the foundation of progress and experts anticipate that the widespread adoption of 5G technology—and the upcoming 5G-Advanced and 6G—will revolutionize several aspects of communication, innovation, and sustainable development.

India is promoting the implementation of 5G technology in a more sustainable manner, as the country gradually embraces this technology. India's strategy for deploying sustainable 5G technology is supported by a strategic mixture of innovation, legislative measures, and engagement with industry stakeholders.

India’s Sustainable Efforts

According to Invest India, the country has the second-largest telecommunications market globally with a subscriber base of about 1.079 billion, as of December 2023. It has experienced significant growth in recent years, facilitating the connection of millions of people across the country.

Yet, while this advancement has ushered in numerous benefits, it has also brought forth both positive and negative impacts. One significant concern arises from the ecological consequences stemming from conventional telecommunications infrastructure. Among the 770,000 towers dispersed across the country, a substantial portion continues to rely on diesel generators. This reliance not only poses environmental hazards but also exacerbates the release of carbon emissions.

Thus, ‘Green Telecom’ was established to address the environmental challenges that come with India’s industrialization. The initiative focuses on lowering carbon footprints, using renewable energy sources, and promoting environmental responsibility.

The Indian government has been actively implementing measures to bridge the gap in access to digital technology, aiming to boost the number of telephone connections and ensure high-speed internet availability in both urban and rural areas across the country. However, the progress towards establishing connectivity in rural India has been impeded by the lack of a reliable power source, posing a persistent challenge in the implementation of these initiatives. In response, telecom operators have explored alternative power options to ensure continuous service delivery, such as diesel generators and inverter-battery systems.

According to India’s Department of Telecommunications, sustainability has become a top priority for telecom providers due to rising energy costs, which account for about 25% of operating expenses (OpEx). Consequently, renewable energy sources like solar and wind power have become better alternatives. Furthermore, the DoT has also proposed integrating alternative energy systems into grid-connected and remote off-grid locations.

In response to this, the government has launched projects within the USOF Phase I sites, through BSNL, focusing on addressing environmental concerns, cutting costs, and improving the energy efficiency of mobile communication networks. By incorporating sustainable energy sources like wind and solar, these initiatives have not only made a significant impact in reducing carbon emissions but have also greatly reduced the need for diesel generators.

Future Plans

During the recent interim budget speech for the fiscal year 2024-2025, Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, outlined India's ambitious plans for key sectors such as telecommunications and information and communication technology (ICT), aligning them with India's Vision 2047.

Vision 2047 will guide India’s journey towards becoming a developed country by 2047. The foundation of this approach is a comprehensive integration of various elements, including economic infrastructure growth, technological progress and sustainability.

Advancements in the telecommunications and information technology industry aim to attain a significant milestone: capturing a 20% share of the global production of mobile telecommunications technologies. Additionally, India intends to establish predominantly self-sufficient domestic telecommunications networks.

India has set ambitious objectives in the telecommunications sector, including increasing its global market share in optical and network equipment supply to 25%. Additionally, India aims to have at least one telecom manufacturing company ranked among the top five globally in optical and network technology.

Furthermore, India is striving to position itself among the top five countries in communication technology research. The country also seeks to enable two Indian companies to rank among the top 10 global firms in quantum communication. Finally, India aims to establish C-DoT as a globally recognized institution in the field of telecommunications.

India's efforts to promote sustainable 5G adoption in Asia are marked by a holistic approach that integrates innovation, policy intervention, and international cooperation. India is laying the foundation for a future in which progress is propelled by technical advancement, while also supporting sustainability.

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