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Day One IMC 2020 inaugural reaffirmed the situation as it is
As IMC enters day three, the industry is still reflecting on the presentations made in the inaugural session by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Minister for Communications, Electronics, Information and Technology, Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad, and the stalwarts at the three large telcos in the country.
Mukesh Ambani, Sunil Mittal and Ravinder Takkar were unanimous in their praise for the support their companies had received from the Honourable PM and his Team over the years, and specifically in the pandemic.
Digital India Mission’s timing is perfect and the only way to go forward if India needs to continue to be a force to be reckoned with.4
All were overwhelmed by the good work done by their own samaritans in serving their customers in the pandemic as data and traffic surged. “Our teams have gone above and beyond the call of duty, to keep the nation connected during COVID. Our engineers set up networks, fixed faults, climbed towers braving floods and rains. Every one of these amazing people just did their jobs, no one forced them to do it and did it because it was their purpose,” said Gopal Vittal.
Moving forward too, the telecom industry is the one to bet on. “The digital potential of our nation is unparalleled. Perhaps, even in the history of mankind,” said the Prime Minister. This was reiterated by Nunzio Mirtillo, Senior Vice President and Head of Market Area South East Asia, Oceania & India, Ericsson, “we have positive trends of high consumption in India and we cannot underestimate the importance of broadband and connectivity toward the social and economic development of the country.” And opportunities shall be provided to nurture new technologies, be they AI, IoT, or ML, encourage FDI, offer sops for India setting up manufacturing facilities to foreign manufacturers and enable India to become a global hub for supply chains, reiterated Ravi Shankar Prasad.
All were unanimous that 5G holds tremendous promise for India. “The future holds great potential with rapid technological progress. We need to work together, to ensure a timely roll-out of 5G to leapfrog into the future and empower millions of Indians,” said the Prime Minister. “We are also keen that India must be 5G-ready and for that testbeds have been created, the provision for that will be unfolded soon,” reiterated Ravi Shankar Prasad. “In order to maintain this lead, policy steps are needed to accelerate early rollout of 5G, and to make it affordable and available everywhere,” affirmed Mukesh Ambani.
And yet there were basic differences
While Jio is pushing for indigenous-developed 5G network, hardware and technology components, Airtel is unambiguous that would not be the correct path to opt for.
“5G will be powered by indigenous-developed network, hardware and technology components. Jio’s 5G service will be a testimony to your inspiring vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat,” said Mukesh Ambani. Gopal Vittal stood his ground, “In much the same way, there is sometimes talk of India having its own 5G standards. This is an existential threat which could lock India out of a global ecosystem and slow down the pace of innovation. We would have let our citizens down if we allowed that to happen.”
Both the operators differ on the readiness for 5G and the timing of the launch of the services too. To quote Mukesh Ambani, “I assure you that Jio will pioneer the 5G Revolution in India in the second half of 2021,” while Sunil Mittal diverged, “I am particularly very excited about the upcoming 5G which in the next 2-3 years will become the norm in the mobile broadband space. As the world settles down on the 5G space, pricing of equipment comes down, and importantly the devices become available in plentiful, India will be ready to receive the benefit on all the investment that the globe would have made into 5G standards and 5G ecosystem.” And subsequently on Day Two, SP Kochhar, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said, that operators would need to weigh in the use cases for 5G in rural areas before investing huge capital to generate a meaningful return.
Jio spares no opportunity to drive the point that 2G must be discontinued, regardless of Airtel and Vi’s stand that it remains a good, low-cost service option for 300 million customers who prefer feature phones and have no immediate need for smartphones. In fact, it is for them that the affordable smartphone is required, says Jio.
The Minister in turn is firm that BSNL must be supported and all done to revive it, “We are also very keen that for our state-led entity, we must create good 4G process in which Indian innovators should also play an important part in developing all necessary tools for that.”
Vodafone Idea seems to have accepted its position in India and places faith in the Indian system. “We intend to collaborate with existing ecosystem players and vibrant startups to drive this exciting future. And there are some challenges too, related to tariffs, taxes, levies, spectrum availability and pricing. The government understands these and have come up with the progressive National Digital Communications Policy. I remain optimistic that with government support, the industry and our company will script India’s success story over the next 25 years too.” said Ravinder Takkar. This is in the backdrop of two setbacks the operator has received from the courts the same day, on the one-time spectrum cost (OTSC) case and the second international arbitration under BIPA.
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