As we bid 2022 goodbye, and usher in 2023, the Indian telecom industry has much to be proud of. Having joined the global league, the 25 percent of the world that has access to 5G coverage, we are set to put together the world’s largest 5G infrastructure by end-2023. In the backdrop of supply chain constraints and semiconductor shortages, and ostracization of price-competitive, world-class Huawei equipment, it has not been an easy task, notwithstanding that the onus of this lies on only two telcos. It would not be an exaggeration to attribute this to Bharti Airtel founder and chairman Sunil Mittal’s never-say-die and everything-is-possible passion for business, and Mukesh Ambani’s financial muscle and business prowess. Unfortunately, Vodafone Idea continues to be caught up in its extended, precarious financial distress and BSNL, yet to launch 4G services, in the bureaucracy maze.
Of course, challenges abound! The telecom sector continues to be a very heavily taxed one. Given the high capital-intensive and technology-obsolescent nature of the industry, and with 6G spectrum auctions in the offing, the government could go the extra mile and ensure that India has robust, sustainable, digital infrastructure providers in the country. Telecom infra-related permission issues need more than a nudge. The government also needs to take a decision on making spectrum available for satellite-based broadband services, and for private networks.
2023, set to be a year that will surpass all other milestones in the history of Indian telecom services is nevertheless expected to be a turbulent one. India is still missing on a telecom vendor ecosystem–investment, high-end engineering talent, and IP culture. The development of the ecosystem will not only be great for the Indian market, it will also help India become a global manufacturing base.
On a positive note, as supply chain conditions gradually improve, the telecom equipment players expect order growth relative to revenue and backlog to moderate over time even in a strong demand environment. The fundamental drivers, including 5G, cloud, and automation are durable over the long term. The Nordic and domestic vendors see a growing market opportunity because of anti-Chinese sentiments. The emerging concept of Open RAN is software-centric, making it easier to enter this field than it was a few years back. A vibrant startup and Venture Capitalists ecosystem, not there earlier, is also encouraging.
We wish our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!