To tap employment potential and business opportunities, the government will be setting up 100 labs for developing applications using 5G services in engineering institutions.

“The labs will cover, among others, applications such as smart classrooms, precision farming, intelligent transport systems, and healthcare applications,” Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance Minister said.

For the telecom sector, the government has allocated ₹1.23-lakh crore for postal and telecom projects including ₹1,52,937 crore capital infusion in State-run BSNL. Total allocation includes ₹97,579.05 crore for the Department of Telecommunications and ₹25,814 crore for postal projects, the Budget document said.

The government has also allocated ₹2,158 crore for optical fibre cable based network for Defence Services and ₹715.8 crore for telecom projects in the North-East. The Department of Posts has been allocated ₹25,814 crore that includes ₹250 crore capital infusion in the India Post Payments Bank.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) welcomed the government’s step to set up labs for development of 5G applications, but was disappointed that levies like license fee had not been reduced.

“The industry had requested for some measures to be introduced in the Budget 2023-24 to ease the regulatory and financial burden on the sector. We are hopeful that the industry’s suggestions to reduce regulatory levies like license fee, deferring USOF contribution till the existing funds are exhausted, exemption of basic customs duty on telecom equipment, waiving of GST on regulatory payments, refund of ITC, among others, will be considered and addressed by the government during the course of the year,” SP Kochhar, Director-General, COAI, said.

According to Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the 5G labs initiative will help build the use cases for the future upon which digital service businesses can be built.

Telecom tech exports

Ashwini Vaishnaw, Minister of Railways, Communications, Electronics & IT, said that the setting up of 5G labs will help a lot of youths in the country in developing new products and use cases. India is becoming a big exporter of telecom technology in two-three years so they can become part of it.

“We were only importers till 10 years ago, but today several products are being exported, and in the next two-three years we will grow multi-fold in exports of telecom products. Our focus in 2023 will be to roll out Atmanirbhar Bharat’s 4G/5G telecom stack for BSNL,” he said.

“With the government’s push to establish 30 Skill India international centres, 100 premier labs for developing applications to use 5G services, and centres of excellence for artificial Intelligence, India has the potential to deliver talent not only across domestic markets but also to the international market. An initiative like the Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS) is also a progressive move by the government to uplift the tribal population and empower the students to take up new job opportunities,” Arvind Bali, CEO, Telecom Sector Skill Council, said.