Huawei India CEO Jay Chen says telecom operators must strongly invest in 5G spectrum once it’s available in India, failing which they run the risk of being left behind in a mobile broadband turf where the competition benchmark has shifted from affordability to network quality.
In an interview to Kalyan Parbat in Shenzhen, Chen said customers in India are no longer as price-sensitive as they were earlier and are rapidly demanding an enhanced network experience, with 4G services gaining mass traction and mobile video emerging as the new basic telecom service. Edited excerpts:
India’s older carriers have been averse to an early 5G spectrum sale and reluctant to spend big sums on 5G airwaves in the absence of a compatible ecosystem and relevant 5G use cases. Could such a strategy prove counterproductive?
Telecom operators must bravely invest in 5G airwaves (once available) as the 5G devices ecosystem will grow much faster than either 3G or 4G, coupled with the fact that spectrum utilisation efficiency levels will also be higher, which will make customer experience on 5G networks a superior one. These are important considerations, especially if they wish to enjoy sustainable leadership in terms of network quality and user experience in a competitive market.
But telcos say they are under immense financial stress
The Indian telecom industry is witnessing a gradual shift from affordability to quality. Customers are no longer as price-sensitive as they were, and are increasingly demanding an enhanced network experience, especially with the mass popularity of mobile video and further development of 4G.
Do you mean the competition benchmark has shifted from low tariffs to one based on better network quality and user experience?
Well, in metros and key cities, an operator’s core competitiveness will be defined by high-quality networks offering a superior customer experience, and will no longer be determined by low tariffs. Operators having low-quality networks will lose competitiveness and eventually their high-value users and markets.
Some operators blame decline in overall quality of mobile services to heavy clogging in networks amid huge demand for data services
Operators have to a degree been compelled to compromise on network quality amid sustained financial stress caused by continuing price wars. But in an era where users are willing to pay for a superior mobile broadband network experience, any compromise on network quality and experience would automatically compromise the competitiveness of a telco.
From a global network vendor’s perspective, what would you say ought to be the immediate priorities of telcos to survive and grow in a market where network capacity requirements are huge, spectrum cost is high and there is a paucity of last-mile fibre?
Operators must resolutely invest in solutions that improve spectrum efficiency to address capacity requirements in any given spectrum band. Besides speeding up VoLTE roll-outs across the country and refarming 2G/3G airwaves for 4G services, telcos must also invest in large-capacity transmission and backhaul solutions and simultaneously in customer experience management.―Business Telegraph