India’s digital transformation growth has been aggressive due to multiple factors, viz., government policies, digital services, and most importantly the scenario that emerged in the pandemic era, like way of doing business and attitude of people toward adopting new technologies. Technology has been playing and would continue to play a major role in life and business across society, geography, and industry adapting to the need for virtual meetings, e-commerce, e-governance, collaboration platforms, governance/self-services through digital platforms; and as such, all of these require APPs, platforms, cloud, high-speed broadband, and resilient networks.
Today, the best-in-class collaboration of technology products and services has been emerging out to serve the customer needs, provide quality experience, and to solve problems of affordability, access, and digital inclusiveness. Such requirements necessitate (a) bandwidth-on-demand, (b) high data rate, (c) robustness and resilience, (d) seamless internet connectivity, and (e) most importantly, communications-as-a-service. Multiplied with the long-term vision of the Government of India and its reformist policies, the telecom sector would further get accelerated, and bring unexpected rapid growth.
With the Government of India’s focus on inclusive growth of the telecom sector, driven by policies, such as Digital India program, Atmanirbhar Bharat program, production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme, increased FDI cap (74% to 100%), and the reiteration during the central budget 2022-23 about all flagship programs, viz., Digital India program, Smart Cities mission, block-chain for digital currency, and the launch of 5G services, India is expected to see the fastest growth ever in digital services transformation.
In my strong belief, technology trends in 2022 and beyond would mainly be 5G and its network infrastructure along with SDN and edge computing. For applications enablement, AI, RPA, IoT solutions, and cyber security would definitely be the prime focus. The 5G technology is the next-generation wireless communication standard, connecting gadgets, machines, enterprises, and people.
The technology would drive innovation and would play a significant role, address the growing demand of connected people and things in industries like manufacturing, smart cities and smart buildings, automobiles, healthcare, agriculture, etc. Exploiting the advantages of (a) private 5G networks, (b) network slicing, and (c) edge computing, the 5G would be a game changer, for the following features:
- Enhanced mobile broadband enables high data rates/large data applications;
- Ultra-reliable low-latency communication enables lowest-latency services/real-time applications; and
- Massive machine-type communication enables massive connection density/energy efficiency/reduced cost per device.
Network slicing is a method of creating multiple unique logical and virtualized networks over a common multi-domain infrastructure. It can span across multiple network domains and operators.
Edge computing is a distributed computing paradigm that brings computation and data storage closer to the sources of data. This is expected to improve response times and save bandwidth. Artificial intelligence (AI) is essential for optimization and predictive maintenance. Through AI-based virtual assistants and chatbots, companies improve customer service and satisfaction, and also through predictive analytics, help to glean actionable business insights from the data they gather.
The software-defined network (SDN) enables dynamic, programmatically efficient network configuration in order to improve network performance and monitoring.
Unlike 3G/4G, dominated by specialized hardware and software, 5G networks are being developed with open source software and standards. The disaggregation of hardware and software functions has resulted in the independent development of each, leading to innovation, flexibility, and scaling, and such ecosystems can be built independently. Telcos can derive more value with open network, open-source software applications, to deliver new services with improved performance.
India has become the world’s second-largest telecommunications market and the third-largest start-up ecosystem in the world. Further, India has 83 unicorns with a total valuation of USD 277.77 billion and most of these unicorns are in the services sector, which contributes over 50 percent to India’s GDP. Such start-up ecosystem will help in developing not only requisite open-software applications but also use-cases for 5G to meet the demands across all sectors of business and customer segments. In the recent budget, the government has announced that measures will be taken to bolster PLI schemes for 5G equipment, strengthening Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative. Thus, I strongly believe that 5G-centric and associated technologies would be the trend at exponential pace.