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News: With over 117 crore telecom users and more than 82 crore internet subscribers, India is one of the fastest-growing markets for digital consumers. Top smartphone manufacturers in India have already released phones with 5G capability. Now it is time for the government to improve digital infrastructure, especially optic fibre manufacturing to facilitate smoother implementation of 5G technology.
Why does India needs to focus on digital infrastructure?
A 2019 Mckinsey study rated India as the second-fastest digitising economy. Digital infrastructure seamlessly integrates with physical and traditional infrastructure. Networking equipment that relies on optical fibre and other semiconductor-based device ecosystems are at the heart of building the 5G infrastructure.
The government has taken several measures to build the next generation of digital infrastructure. But the success of initiatives such as Bharatnet Phase III and the world’s largest rural broadband project face challenges due to the non-deployment of high-quality fibres. For instance, a little more than 30% of mobile towers have fibre connectivity; this needs to be scaled up to at least 80%.
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The status of optic fibre manufacturing in India
In the last 10 years, domestic manufacturers invested more than Rs 5,000 crore in this industry. The industry has generated direct and indirect employment for around 4 lakh individuals.
India’s annual optic fibre manufacturing capacity is around 100 million fibre km (fkm) and the domestic consumption is around 46 million fkm. India is also exporting optical fibre to over 132 countries.
Indian optical fibre cable consumption is predicted to increase to 33 million fkm by 2026 from 17 million fkm in 2021.
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What should be done to revive optic fibre manufacturing?
Tackle cheaper imports: Countries such as China, Indonesia and South Korea are dumping their products in India at rates lower than the market price.
The government must impose anti-dumping duties to protect the domestic industry. Directorate General of Trade Remedies has recently begun investigations against optical fibre imports.
Enhance digital infrastructure: India needs to invest in R&D, offer production-linked incentive schemes to support indigenous high-tech manufacturing and develop intellectual property in critical aspects of digital connectivity.
The need of the hour is to unlock the full potential of India’s optical fibre industry and enable India to emerge as a major manufacturing and technology hub while achieving atmanirbharta in its 5G journey.
Source: The post is based on the article “5G technology will soon be here. India must prepare” published in “Indian Express” on 29th June 2022.