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Working Toward A Fully Connected and Digitally Empowered India

The Cellular Operators Association of India, the apex industry association representing leading Telecom, Internet, Technology and Digital Services companies, concluded its Annual General Body Meeting for the financial year, 2018-19. Some excerpts are given from selected presentations.

INDUSTRY SPEAKS

Dr RS Sharma
Chairman,
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

“As the sector regulator, TRAI has played the role of catalyst for growth in the sector and also for technological innovations. TRAI has also collaborated with the DoT in formulation of the National Digital Communication Policy, which aims to build and sustain a sound digital infrastructure in the country, and is committed to work towards its implementation.

TRAI believes that adoption of newer technologies will not only help in opening new revenue streams but will also benefit consumers. Keeping this in view, TRAI’s new TCCCPR 2018 regulations (the UCC regulations) has been notified, which envisages adoption of blockchain technology to effectively control unsolicited commercial communication (UCC), giving more choices to the consumers and providing revenue generation opportunities to the telecom service providers. TRAI is also working on the much-needed regulatory framework for Over-the-Top (OTT) service providers and is likely to come out with its recommendations soon.

The next quantum leap for the sector will occur once 5G services are commercially rolled out. On this front, the Authority has given its recommendations on spectrum pricing.

TRAI looks forward to working with the industry to further the policies of the government, ensure customer satisfaction and promote the health of the industry.”


Aruna Sudararajan
Secretary,
Department of Telecommunications

“The hyper competitive Indian telecom market has only seen the beginning of many disruptions, yet it offers ample growth potential to not only draw massive investments but also ensure requisite profitability.

The government, on its part, is leaving no stone unturned in extending assistance and ensuring that the requisite telecom infrastructure and services are put in place which will accelerate the industry’s growth, in the times ahead.

5G upholds the promise of transforming India into part of a dynamic global manufacturing supply chain. Over the next few years, more than USD 100 billion worth of investments will be needed for the end-to-end deployment of 5G infrastructure in the country. Once commercially operational, the technology will open up fresh revenue streams for telecom service providers, thereby contributing to the sector’s overall financial health. It is imperative that we embrace technology-led transformation in order to leapfrog toward a brighter future.

The telecom sector is expected to require over 40 lakh additional skilled manpower by 2021-22. Imparting the right skill sets remains a critical concern area and I am happy to see that industry is putting in all efforts toward achieving the desired results”


Sunil Sood
Chairman, COAI (2018-19),
MD & CEO, Vodafone India Limited

“The bygone fiscal year 2018-19, was both turbulent and eventful in several aspects. With the start of the new financial year, there is renewed hope and expectation that the fiscal year 2019-20, will mark a major inflection point in the fortunes of the sector. The telecom sector provides the much needed connectivity layer, critical for transforming India into a veritable global knowledge economy with digitization at its very core.

Revival of the sector, critical for economic growth

In response to debilitating hyper-competition, tumbling revenues, squeezing margins, while still to expand mobile broadband coverage and content delivery, the industry consolidated into a three private player market and one government owned player. With consolidation now firmly in place, telecom operators, who have invested more than INR 10.4 lakh crore till date, will further continue their investment, to drive India towards a $1 trillion digital economy over the next few years.

However, for it to play its due role in Industry 4.0 to ensure growth and innovation, it is vital that immediate steps are taken to restore the financial health of the sector. The industry is reeling under a cumulative debt of INR 7.64 lakh crores with revenues dipping below INR 2 lakh crore, leading to a loss of more than INR 5000 crore to the exchequer.

In spite of being widely recognized as an essential service, India’s telecom industry is one of the highest taxed, with service providers paying more than 30 percent of their revenues in the form of taxes and levies, while telcos in the rest of the world pay around 10%. The NDCP 2018 recognizes this anomaly and hence it needs to be corrected immediately.

It is absolutely necessary for all relevant stakeholders to re-look and rationalize multiple charges including spectrum usage charge and license fee, high level of GST (18%) and Import duties (20%) on essential items such as 4G and 5G equipment. The industry has made several pleas to the Government seeking urgent measures for debt restructuring, rationalization of levies, and release of INR 35,000 crore GST input tax credit locked up with the government and we are very hopeful that the new financial year will bring some much-needed relief.

It is critical for the telecom sector to remain financially strong and play its due role in shaping the future of the country that needs to be built on the bedrock of digital.

Need to relook at spectrum auction and pricing strategy

This decade witnessed Governments maximizing revenue from highly priced spectrum which was aggressively bid by operators to be able to sustain and be competitive. Consolidation in the sector has led to sufficient spectrum availability amongst the remaining players and this now calls for a change in the auction and pricing strategy. With 5G on the anvil, spectrum should be made available to players at modest reserve prices so that the efforts of telecom operators to enhance network capacities is not hampered due to the high prices.

Provisioning of harmonized, contiguous, interference free spectrum will further help reduce costs and make the sector more efficient. Having established pan-India 4G networks, operators need allocation of backhaul spectrum i.e. Microwave, E & V bands at reasonable prices for seamless connectivity and customer experience. Government should make this available to licensed players expeditiously.

Taking mobile broadband to a billion Indians

For India to become a digitally empowered global knowledge economy, taking mobile broadband to a billion Indians across diverse socioeconomic and demographic sets, is an absolute imperative. This will make critical services like health, education, banking services and governance seamlessly accessible to masses, overcoming physical barriers.

NDCP 2018 has set the target of providing universal broadband coverage of 50Mbps, 10Gbps at all Gram Panchayats, 10 million public Wi-Fi Hotspots and 4 million new jobs. As part of the Government’s BharatNet initiative, telecom operators have collaborated to provide end-toend connectivity to 80,000 Gram Panchayats so far. Emerging technologies that hinge on telecom, such as AI and IoT, once adopted, will immensely benefit all sectors and open new vistas for the economy.

The current digital infrastructure is enabled by a ‘fiber first’ approach and has also been recognized by the NDCP. The implementation collaborative model proposed in the policy is expected to expedite roll out and improve infrastructure sharing between public, local, and private entities, to increase the access to fiber optic cables in municipalities, rural areas, and national highways.

Right of Way (RoW) rules are the key enablers for expediting the deployment of underground (optical fibre) and over ground (mobile towers) infrastructure in India. With quality service being the top priority of telecom service providers, RoW rules need to be implemented on the ground with urgency.

The Industry requires a more concerted and collaborative effort amongst all stakeholders including the central and state governments and the local bodies.

Developing secure networks for ensuring data privacy

As we prepare for the digital era, data privacy becomes a key area of focus for network planners. Network security is of paramount importance and the industry is taking all the necessary measures to ensure customer data remains safe. The explosive growth in the quantity and quality of personal data has created a significant opportunity to generate new forms of economic and social value.

Government, Regulator and the industry has held several discussions and consultations to develop a robust privacy and data protection framework and we believe that aligning with the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] may be the right step in this direction.

Preparing India for 5G

As India now prepares for 5G, operators are readying their networks, forging partnerships, developing use cases and setting up trials to take India at par with the rest of the world in the commercial launch of 5G services.

A robust 4G network is a must for laying a strong foundation for 5G. With sufficient spectrum in their hands and capex outlays, telecom service providers in India are currently focused on optimising 4G networks and making them 5G ready. Once commercially deployed, 5G will fuel and transform many other emerging technologies such as IoT, AI, and Virtual Reality, which will, in turn, bring multiple benefits to consumers and enterprises. Once the 5G ecosystem, including enabling hardware develops and India-specific use cases are successfully piloted, the need for more quality spectrum will arise, which is likely to be accomplished by 2020.

The High Level Forum for 5G India 2020, headed by Professor Arogyaswami Paulraj, has given its recommendations on spectrum and regulatory policies, international standards, awareness promotion programs, applications, use cases and pilot trials for 5G in India. Industry stakeholders, government and the academia is working together to make this a reality.

In the interim , a focused and timely implementation of NDCP 2018 will help alleviate the sector from its acute financial distress. Going forward, spectrum must be made affordable such that it empowers the Indian telecom sector to fulfil its designated role of making broadband accessible to one and all for achieving the larger vision of Digital India The policy clearly articulates that Telecom should not be treated as a revenue-generating sector but as a core enabler of socio economic progress of the country.

The industry is committed to enable digital communication contribute 8% of India’s GDP and propel the country towards being one of the top 50 nations in the ICT Development Index, from the current 134. The next few years will be crucial to turn the dream of Digital India into a reality and therefore it is imperative that the Government, the telecom operators, and all other stakeholders work together and support each other towards achieving the common goal for the development of the nation.

In conclusion

To translate the vision of the Digital Future into reality, the need now, more than ever, is for all stakeholders to better collaborate, co-create and accelerate execution with a singular focused, consistent approach towards the larger objective of Digital India. By swiftly and diligently implementing NDCP 2018, we must set the course right, progress full steam ahead and create a new legacy. The existing digital divide between rural Bharat and urban India needs to bridge fast. This is Bharat’s time to embrace the Digital world just like India is doing and we must make the most of it to deliver the Digital Future to All!

I am hopeful that as the apex industry body, the Cellular Operators Association of India will remain at the forefront of this dialogue and engagement amongst industry stakeholders and lead India’s growth story.


Ajai Puri
Vice Chairman, COAI
COO (India and South Asia), Bharti Airtel Limited

“The massive damage to the balance sheets of operators will still take some time to repair and the industry continues to carry the burden of large debt on account of spectrum purchases and pan- India network rollouts. Telecom is the backbone of Government’s Digital India vision and there is a need for urgent intervention from the Government to ensure the industry is financially sustainable and continues to support this vision.

The Telecom sector has one of highest tax rates in India and given that it provides connectivity to every Indian at the lowest rates globally, the Government needs to rationalize the high levies on the industry that is already under a lot of stress. The industry has also been making a fair demand for adjustment of blocked GST credits against spectrum payments and licence fee to ease the financial burden. We hope the Government will take note of these long standing demands which will help in ensuring the long term viability of the sector.

A 3+1 operator market with each player having a healthy market share and the opportunity to serve a Billion+ people is good news for the industry from a long term perspective. This is an ideal market structure that will allow every operator to be able to invest and innovate for the customer in a digitally connected India.

India becoming an ocean of smartphones

India is transforming into a smartphone nation, with over 400 million smartphone users already out there. And as operators expand their high speed 4G networks deeper into every corner of the country, the number of smartphone users is expected to cross 700 million by 2022. The average monthly data consumption on a smartphone in India has crossed 10 GB and this is ahead of even some of the most developed nations. Video has become the most used service on data networks and this appetite for high speed data is expected to grow further as customer get a taste of digital services and content.

As more and more Indians jump on to the 4G smartphone bandwagon, one of the biggest ecosystems of digital services globally ranging from music, video, gaming, e-commerce, social media, mobile banking, e-health, e-education is set to shape up and grow rapidly on the back of strong data networks across the nation. Telecom services providers will truly enable and digitize India and multiple services, including digitizing the Government sector, citizen services and records.

Roadmap for 5G

The operators are continuously investing in newer network technologies such as pre-5G Massive MIMO, Carrier Aggregation, LAA and optical networks to serve this massive surge in data consumption and move towards what we describe as 4.5G standards. With this, the industry has started building a robust foundation for moving towards the most awaited network standard – 5G, which will truly transform the world from connected individuals to connected things and throw up some very exciting use cases.

Smart Homes, connected appliances and cars will not just be fancy experiments in labs but become a part of our daily lives. Industrial IoT – from Smart Cities & Grids, Smart Factories and Robotics – could become even bigger than customer facing use cases. All of this will be driven by cutting edge telecom networks, so one can imagine the vast opportunity ahead of us. We are already beginning to see some early IoT use cases on 4G coming into play.

Need for collaboration to build a 5G ready India

India is second to none when it comes to telecom. We are the second largest telecom market globally with one of the largest 4G footprints in the world and a massive smartphone and content ecosystem. But 5G will require the telecom industry to more than double down on its efforts and investments. While the Government of India has taken some noteworthy initiatives to ensure India is in step with the rest of the world when it comes to 5G, there is certainly much more that needs to be done to make 5G happen.

5G rollouts would mean tens of millions of sites and millions of Kms of fiber to be deployed in every corner to ensure very low latency and high speed–high capacity connectivity. The telecom industry is more than willing to invest in this digital future but the government needs to create an enabling environment in the form of rational spectrum prices, lower taxes and levies that provide headroom for the large CapEx needed. We need to make telecom an essential service and enable deployment of telecom infrastructure such as sites and fiber on priority. Remember, no site means no network and there is an urgent need for a clear policy framework that accelerates telecom infrastructure deployment. In brief, for 5G investments to happen, we need to ensure viable business case for commercialization of services at large scale.

More importantly, the industry needs to change its mindset and rethink business models to share and collaborate. No one operator will be able to do it alone and we need to think shared networks and infrastructure such as fiber. Telcos will need to build partnerships with multiple industry verticals to jointly develop use cases and solutions and this would mean common R&D labs and design centres. The bottom line is that partnerships and an open architecture approach that allows all stakeholders to plug and play will work better than isolated initiatives.

Last but not the least, India must have 5G spectrum and standards that are aligned to global norms. This will allow India to easily absorb latest technology and also build use case for the rest of the world. We will also need to reshape our education and skill ecosystem to support this journey.

I would like to summarize by saying that 4G and 5G will shape the telecommunications industry over the next decade and we should be very excited about the opportunities ahead.

I congratulate the COAI team for having done a stellar job of taking forward the industry’s agenda and wish them the very best for the year ahead.”


Balesh Sharma
CEO,
Vodafone Idea Limited

“For the aspirations to become a USD 5-trillion economy by 2025 to be realized, USD 1 trillion will have to come from being a digital economy, which will be enabled by telecom – the connectivity layer providers and the solution providers. The merging of the physical and virtual worlds is ushering in a bold new future. Digital convergence, Big Data, IoT, cloud, augmented reality, robotics, and artificial intelligence are all bringing transformation at an unprecedented pace. And it is the telecom sector that will provide the critical layer of connectivity, on which this future will arrive. As the world and India embrace Industry 4.0, the future holds great promise for the Indian telecom sector. We are at the cusp of a great opportunity, despite sometimes getting caught into seeing a lot of turbulence and a lot of darkness.

We have been fortunate that the vision and foresight of our policymakers and the regulator has provided us an ideal platform. The launch of NDCP 2018; bold spectrum reforms as harmonization, sharing, and trading, which transformed the sector from spectrum scarce to spectrum surplus; and future-fit policies like KYC and ROW provided ease of doing business.

With blocked investments of INR 10.4 lakh crore, more than 5 lakh mobile towers, over 20 lakh base stations and a world-class communication infrastructure across the length and breadth of the country, India, along with the rest of the world, stands on the cusp of introducing 5G. Service providers are readying their networks to welcome 5G by introducing future-fit technologies and forging relevant partnerships, while expanding their 4G networks and making them more robust. India already has the third-largest deployment of Massive MIMO in the world. After China and Korea, it is India where the four telcos together are putting in a lot of investment.

The stage is set for developing and trialing in India the specific use cases such that maximum benefits can be reaped by the judicious deployment of new-age technologies like 5G. The industry seeks suitable changes in the auction design such that 5G spectrum is made available to all players at reasonable prices; so more investments may be directed toward enhancing network capacity and capabilities, and hence customer experience.

The immediate aim is to make the telecom sector strong and sustainable. The future of India is closely aligned with success of the telecom sector. It is time to be brave, and do what we must. We must set the course right, progress full steam ahead, and create a new legacy!”


Rajan S Mathews
Director General,
COAI

“The past year saw the industry face hyper-competition, severe financial challenges, consolidation to a three-player private plus one PSU operator, an unsustainable debt load and the write-off of billions of dollars of value as several operators went into insolvency. In the face of these challenges, there were a few bright spots, such as the adoption of the National Digital Communications Policy 2018 (NDCP-2018), preparation for the adoption of 5G through the institution of the 5G High Level Forum, improvements in the ease of doing business, continuing connection of rural India, rapid deployment of 4G networks and data consumption and tariffs that were the envy of the world! In the year ahead, we see the industry emerge to amor stable competitive environment, continued investments in 4G networks, a renewed focus on network coverage and quality, healthier balance sheets as operators raise Capital for investments and debt repayment and a focus from government on implementation of key aspects of NDCP 2018.

Globally, as witnessed in India, rapid innovation in technology and competitive pressure has led companies to merge operations and drive efficiencies in order to maintain viability and profitability. Companies are now looking to tap into new revenue streams emerging from new technology adoption. 5G promises significant opportunities, but emerging business models appear to be nebulous as operators scan the technology horizon for opportunities they can monetize. Partnerships and emerging network players providing service delivery platforms closer to the consumer, aggregators, cloud computing, all ensure competition will continue to be vibrant. Raising the needed investments to keep pace with the rapidly changing technology and customer demand will continue to test the financial mettle of incumbent operators.

As in the past year, the year 2019-20 continues to see an unprecedented surge in mobile data consumption and voice traffic, as consumers benefit from low tariff rates and expanded services. Though the country boasts of the world’s second largest internet user base, actual penetration is still at a meagre 46 percent. This provides operators an opportunity to continue to drive penetration for broadband connections. Rural penetration affords another opportunity for expansion as the efforts of operators continue to focus on meeting Governments’ ambitions of a fully connected Digital India. We believe that the government and the operators have every reason to continue to forge an active partnership, given that, every 10 percent increase in Internet penetration, gives rise to an increase in GDP of the country by more than 3 percent. This fact itself should be a great impetus toward bringing the next billion online.

Riding strongly on the back of the government’s ambitious Digital India program, telcos have been taking several steps in deploying a robust infrastructural blue-print, ready to deliver connectivity and digital services to the last mile. Till date, telcos have already invested INR 13.6 lakh crore in establishing a formidable infrastructural footprint. The last few years have seen significant 4G infrastructure being installed with 75 percent of overall base stations being 3G/4G. The industry recently witnessed the deployment of over 5 lakh mobile towers with over 21 lakh BTSs. In the wake of increasing global roll out of 5G networks and emerging use cases, it is expected that Government will be keen to keep India at the forefront of 5G adoption. Operators will be looking to work with the Government on 5G spectrum pricing, test cases, test beds and adoption of use cases suitable to India in the coming year.

NDCP 2018, anticipates the need for investments of USD 100 billion over the next 3 to 4 years to achieve its objectives. To achieve this, the stressed financial condition of the telecom industry has to be addressed. Given the importance and speed with, which there is a need to enable digital citizenship and stimulate economic growth, it is important for the government to prioritize between the short term benefits of immediate revenue generation and the long term dividends that a robust connected economy can create and start acting on them on a priority basis. We hope the new government will address it in the first 100 days of its tenure. Amidst these challenges and opportunities and with optimism for the improvement of the industry’s fortunes in the future, I present the Annual Report for the year 2018-19.

Status on policy and regulatory issues

One of the most crucial milestones of the government last year was the release of the NDCP 2018. NDCP 2018, apart from focusing on telecom and digitization, aims to create 40 lakh new jobs through relevant skill improvement. NDCP 2018, has taken into account several long standing concerns the sector was facing and addressed each of those comprehensively. Rationalization of multiple taxes and levies on the industry and treatment of spectrum as a natural resource to ensure overall development of the country, are some of the many recommendations which truly deserve to be highlighted. The ability to raise the proposed investment of USD 100 billion on favorable financial terms, will not only make access to communication services easy and affordable but will also breathe in a new lease of life into the already debt ridden and financially distressed telecom sector. The proper execution of the policy will not only ensure the sector’s long-term sustainability but will also prepare the sector for widespread adaptations needed for welcoming futuristic technologies.

Efforts undertaken by the government to facilitate roll out of 5G network services commercially by early 2020, is truly laudable by all measures. The High Level Forum for 5G India 2020, was constituted by Department of Telecommunications to position India as a globally synchronized participant in the Design, Development and Manufacturing of 5G based technology, products and applications. The coming few months are likely to witness many trials of advanced radio technologies for 5G and their relevant use cases as the 5G standardization process gathers momentum in India. We expect 5G deployments in India in the medium term and this leap forward in connectivity will enable the TSPs to significantly scale up their IoT and M2M offerings. 5G will be the key to the success of the Smart Cities initiative of the Govt. which is primarily aimed at the aspirational middle class which is looking for facilities like connected living, smart meters, smart traffic management and waste management. However, the success factor of 5G in India lies in the pricing of the spectrum for auction. The current price recommended by the regulator is significantly high if compared globally and needs to be reviewed and rationalized looking at the financially distress that the sector is reeling under.

Under the aegis of the government’s BharatNet program, 1 lakh Gram Panchayats were connected through high speed OFC network by December ‘17, and the idea was to take this number to 2.5 lakh, by March 2019. BharatNet aims to deliver communication and connectivity till the last mile and to the last person. The telecom industry is also working towards the installation of one million Wi-Fi hotspots. As of now, they have deployed about 3.5 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots and the remaining is expected to be deployed by September 2019. The operators have worked towards state-of-the-art Wi-Fi networks, which provide seamless roaming, ease of access, high levels of security, inter-company bill settlements, etc., thereby enabling smooth experience for subscribers, as he or she will be able to use the data plan taken from any TSP and use it for all the Wi-Fi Hotspots deployed across India. Besides offering consumer delight, this industry initiative will create an additional 3 lakh jobs. We believe this is a first of a kind, anywhere in the world.

The Right of Way policy is also playing an instrumental role in ensuring efficient connectivity and optimum distribution of digital services in several regions. The industry is working closely with the State and Local Governments for the efficient implementation of the RoW Gazette Notification. Sixteen states have already adopted the RoW Gazette Notification of 2016, and many other states are following suit, reaping the benefits of India’s journey towards becoming a global, digital knowledge economy. COAI is constantly working with the remaining states for early adoption of RoW policies that comport with the RoW Gazette Notification. Another important development was the apex court’s judgement on Aadhaar, where it mandated that individuals do not need to link their Aadhaar details while applying for new mobile connections from operators. However, the same has been later allowed by the cabinet as a voluntary measure. The industry worked with the government on an OTP based Digital KYC solution as the earlier paper based method of getting a new mobile connection was cumbersome for the telecom operators as well as, for the customers. This was done keeping customer convenience in mind.

The implementation of GST by the government is truly commendable. It will go a long way in fostering economic growth and sustainable development in the country. GST did not only widen the tax base but also created a unified national market, eliminated state level tax barriers by bringing in much needed transparency and simplicity while automating the myriad compliance matrices. The telecom sector has been a significant contributor to the Government treasury and accounts for 3-4 percent of total GST payments. The GST council had held several meetings over the year, announcing specific reliefs from time to time. The council upholds ease of doing business and have made several amendments to promote the idea. We hope that amendments in the law will address issues that the telecom sector is facing, such as the significant amount of refunds due operators, the levy of GST on Government payments (under reverse charge), Centralized Registration & Centralized Assessments for service companies etc. We remain confident that the Government will deal with this on a priority basis.

The expansion of 4G network coupled with the availability of cheaper data and smartphones has led to a surge in the usage of data in India. The usage of apps, social media, and consumption of video has sharply increased. While the high data usage has pushed India towards becoming a leading Digital Economy, it has also posed many challenges in terms of Data Privacy and Security. Social media, Apps and TSPs have access to personal information of consumers who use their services. Hence a pressing need has been felt across the world on appropriate safeguards to the privacy of the personal information of consumers.

GDPR is one such example which was brought by the EU to address the concern around data privacy. India has also felt the need to address the concerns of Data Privacy and has drafted a Personal Data Protection Bill, which is expected to be adopted as law by the new government. The National e-commerce Policy and modifications to the Intermediary Guidelines under the IT Act have also been drafted for stakeholder comments and inputs. These proposed rules will pose new challenges for the telecom service providers as they will have to make several technical changes for possession, processing and storage of subscriber data records in compliance with the new laws of the land.

We expect the year 2019-20, will usher in possible disruptions, hitherto inconceivable. Technology innovations, new revenue streams, new applications, new network configurations, new competitors will all require significant investments to propel India to newer heights of economic growth and prosperity. The Indian telecom sector will have to look at adopting technologies like Blockchain, 5G, among others, to create new revenue streams and lower existing operational costs. With progress in Machine Learning and intense interest in smart technologies, Artificial Intelligence is also coming into the mainstream. This will bring many opportunities for operators in the form of AI based solutions for applications, services and underlying infrastructure. This may also be adopted to improve customer service and reduce customer churn.

COAI and its member operators will continue their focus on providing value to their customers, advocating for a stable, long term, sustainable, policy and regulatory environment which will promote innovation and orderly growth for a fully connected and digitally empowered India, delivered through a financially strong and viable industry. We also look forward to continuing our partnership with the Government and Regulator to achieve the above vision.

Other activities of the association

Taking forward the momentum from last year, COAI organized the second edition of the country’s largest iconic Mobile, Internet, and Technology event in India – India Mobile Congress 2018. The event took place under the active support, guidance, and leadership of Manoj Sinha, Minister of Communications (Independent Charge) and Minister of State for Railways and actively supported by Aruna Sundararajan, Secretary, DoT and Chairperson of the Digital Communication Commission as well as with the support of several other Government Ministries (MEITY, DST, Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Housing & Urban Affairs). With discussions pivoting on emerging technologies offering a glimpse into Virtual Reality, Connected Cars, m-Health, Smart Wearables, Smart Home, Artificial Intelligence, Drones, Robotics, Smart Energy, Internet of Things, Blockchain, Machine Vision, Cloud Computing, etc., policy and regulatory guidelines, the event drew luminaries from industry, Government – both domestic and international as well as many other speakers of international repute. The event also witnessed technology showcases, use cases and also provided a platform for budding entrepreneurs to gain exposure and build connections.

COAI, in coordination with the DoT and the GSMA, helped in the coordination and facilitation of the visit of the Indian Government Delegation comprising of Chairman, TRAI R.S. Sharma, Member of TDSAT, Bhargava, Anshu Prakash, Additional Secretary, Telecom, DoT along with senior officials from their respective organizations, to Mobile World Congress 2019, held in the month of February-March in Barcelona, Spain. The delegation successfully represented the Indian Telecom Industry and highlighted the immense opportunities present in the country. COAI being the Market Representation Partner (MRP) of 3GPP from India, we have been constantly engaging with 3GPP on requirements for the Indian market, as COAI members have a sustained business developed using 3GPP technologies and standards. To fulfill these activities, COAI formed the “Indian Friends of 3GPP” (IF3) to facilitate collective activity to host 3GPP meetings of relevance to India, within India and to do so in a manner that is cost effective, efficient, and which meets with the expectations of the 3GPP community. Further, COAI along with IF3, hosted six group meetings of 3GPP namely SA5#121, RAN5#3-5G-NR Adhoc, SA4#100, SA2#130, SA3#94 and SA6#28 in Kochi and Jaipur in the months of October 2018, January 2019, and February 2019. Around 500 delegates from across the globe participated in these meetings.

COAI has participated and partnered with other entities in the co-organization and co-creation of various seminars and workshops on issues of common interest and benefit to its members and for generating subject matter awareness amongst consumers. COAI and its members also continued active participation in Organizations such as CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, NASSCOM, GSMA, TSDSI, TCOE, TSSC, amongst others, as well as activities of many telecom events in India.

To keep pace with the growing ecosystem and to represent the whole gamut of the communications industry, COAI continued to expand its Associate Membership by inducting new members such as ECI Telecom India Pvt. Ltd. and Juniper Networks Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

The COAI Executive Council headed by Chairman, Sunil Sood, Vice Chairman and Ajai Puri and comprising senior representatives from all member operators, met several times over the last year to deliberate on a variety of issues impacting the telecom industry. They were ably assisted by proficient advice from the various Working Committees that have been set up in COAI.

I would also like to thank all the Committees and Working Groups and their Chairmen and Vice Chairmen for their proficient leadership and sincere contribution towards various industry issues. We are grateful for their contributions towards various industry issues and for helping the Association in representing these issues in an expert and timely manner.

I would like to thank the Chairman, Sunil Sood and the Vice Chairman, Ajai Puri, for their personal involvement and support in all the activities and initiatives of the association in the last year, especially in the face of many challenges faced by their respective companies and the entire industry, during the course of the year. Both of them have given generously, their time and resources to provide personal support and guidance to the Association. We request their continued support and guidance in the future as well.

With the merger of Vodafone and Idea this year into a single entity, we are sorry to see the departure of two stalwarts of the telecom industry from COAI – Sunil Sood and Himanshu Kapania. They have provided exemplary leadership to the industry as heads of their respective companies and COAI in particular, as Chair and Vice Chair. We owe them immense gratitude and thankfulness for their unstinting support and encouragement over the years.

I would especially like to record my deep appreciation for the sustained efforts and support of the COAI Secretariat team who have always been fully committed to the task before us and have always been ready to take up new challenges for the Association and execute them smoothly, efficiently and with excellence. I deeply appreciate all of their efforts in contributing significantly to all the achievements of COAI.”


Please also refer to COAI report at  5G In India: When And How?
GSMA Report at  India Becoming 5G Ready

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