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The imminent arrival of 5G and its implications

We are quickly (pun intended) moving towards 5G internet technology, with a number of countries looking to implement the next step in wireless internet speeds and bandwidth. India is one of the countries at the forefront of this shift, with the country’s Ministry of Communications having set up a forum in 2017 to discuss deploying the technology by this year. However, there are several concerns regarding 5G, the biggest of which concerns Huawei, the Chinese telecom behemoth which is the market leader for this technology.

Huawei stands accused by the United States of having been involved in cyberattacks and espionage at the behest of the Chinese government. The United States has banned Huawei, and other allies such as Australia have followed suit. Thus, it is a delicate decision for countries like India to make – approach Huawei to implement 5G and face pressure from the United States, or toe the line and face ‘reverse sanctions’ from China in the form of restricted access to other markets and companies. At the moment, India has invited all companies, including Huawei, to participate in market trials.

Another issue is the fact that India has barely invested any money towards 5G development – it allotted around $31.5 million for testing in 2018, compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars spent by Chinese tech firms towards this technology. Thus, India simply does not possess the technological know-how to implement 5G on its own, and China represents the best bet towards this. There has been some pushback, with a number of groups calling for bans on Chinese tech firms on account of them being a ‘security threat’. There are genuine cybersecurity concerns as well, with India having seen a number of high-profile data breaches in recent years. Indigenously developed technology will take a long time to be secure enough, and in the short to medium-term, India will have to accede to either the United States or China’s demands if it wants to deploy 5G technology across the country.

Another factor is the fact that the existing telecom players in the country already have relationships with Huawei. Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, who together with Reliance Jio form the ‘Big Three’ of India’s telecom market and hold more than 50% of market share, have already partnered with the likes of ZTE, Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson to conduct 5G trials. Both companies are existing customers of the Chinese company and use its technology for 2G, 3G and 4G operations already in certain areas. While Reliance Jio has currently partnered with Samsung, this may also influence the government’s decision on whether to go with Huawei.

Another important implication is the impact on mobile casinos and gambling. Paysafe, a leading payments platform, conducted a study which showed that 42% of existing regular sports bettors across the UK, US and Germany anticipate increasing their activity if 5G was available. Over 21% said that 5G would mean that they would increase the number of sports they bet on. 37% of active players prefer to place their bets on their phones, which means that there is sure to be surge in betting activity once 5G becomes the market standard. This will also support the 61% of existing players who want to be able to place more bets from their phones. 5G will provide higher speeds and better connectivity, mitigating the concerns of those players who avoid betting on their phones due to slow connections. Another potential opportunity lies with sporting venues, where 51% of current bettors are reluctant to place bets on their phones due to the poor quality of connections. Almost half (48%) of the respondents to this study said that they would be more likely to bet using their phones if they were at a sports arena with 5G coverage. This is a tremendous opportunity for the market, especially with betting being legalized in more and more regions. Recently, the state of Maine in the United States saw the state Senate step in to override a veto on gambling by the governor. The Senate’s reasoning is that illegal gambling is already rife, and thus it makes more sense to legalize the practice instead of forcing gamblers in the state to move to other states. With such measures increasing along with the potential of 5G technology, mobile betting could soon be the way of choice for punters.

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