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India Is At The Crossroads Again

India Is At The Crossroads Again

While the world is moving forward with 5G, India is struggling to get its act together. The Indian government is keen to stay ahead in the race, be it AI or 5G, but is also firm that it wants a large slice of the pie. It is a classic case of having one’s cake and eating it too, because the service providers may not be in any position to carry this cross, and the consumer is not really exhibiting a capacity to pay for these services. Can the service survive on freebies till the revenues start trickling in and the urban consumer or his rural counterpart is ready or able to pay for them?

While the world races on with a technology that will change the very foundation businesses are built on, will India get lost in the political turmoil, or will the government do all it can to ensure the country is for once at par with the rest of the world on the technology adoption curve?

5G so far

The race for 5G is on and will continue apace in 2019. Many telcos around the world have already developed 5G architecture and are initiating their field tests this year. Across the industry, expect to see 1GB access move to 10GB and 10GB aggregation to 100GB in order to cope with 4G growth and to lay the groundwork for new 5G-bearing core networks.

There will also be increased interest in 5G research and development emerging from other industries outside the traditional telco market, including in energy, agri business and transportation, who all see the vast potential 5G technology presents to revolutionise the way they can deliver their goods and services.

We are about to hit the first phase of significant service launches in major markets. 5G will soon be launched in Singapore, elsewhere in Asia and beyond. The three major telcos in China, Singtel, StarHub and M1 have exploded off the starting blocks in the race to be the world leader in next-generation 5G technology. Last December, Beijing approved 5G test frequency licences for its three major telcos, setting the stage for large-scale 5G tests nationwide this year.

Last December, South Korea’s three major telcos – SK Telecom, KT Corporation and LG Uplus – too started offering what they claimed to be the world’s first commercialised 5G service in Seoul and six other major cities, including Busan and Daejeon.

Australia is the second Asia-Pacific country after South Korea to auction off 5G spectrum, and is also expected to be the second nation in the region to launch commercial 5G services. Four companies, Telstra, Optus, Dense Air Australia and a joint venture between TPG Telecom and Vodafone Hutchison Australia shall start offering mid-band 5G services in early 2019, with a full rollout across the capital cities, regional centers and high-demand areas by June 2020.

Japan’s three mobile carriers are promising to launch limited 5G commercial services this year and a full-scale roll-out by the time Tokyo hosts the Olympics in July next year. NTT Docomo, KDDI and Softbank are conducting 5G mobile communications trials, as is upcoming telco Rakuten Mobile, which will begin a 4G service in October and 5G roll-out next year.

But 5G – offering 20 times faster data transmission speed than the current 4G LTE network and better support for artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality – does not benefit the public yet, as there are currently no 5G-enabled consumer devices available in the market.

5G will trend upwards beginning in 2019 with less than 1 million global connections; by 2020, this will grow to 37 million and then more than quadruple to 156 million in 2021; by 2022, 5G connections will exceed 500 million and the 2023 forecast puts 5G global connections at 1.3 billion.

In the meantime, forecasts for LTE continue to show very positive growth with milestones of nearly 4 billion at end of 2018; more than 5 billion by 2020; and about 6 billion in 2022 at which time LTE growth will decline due to the mass market growth of 5G. In 2023, LTE connections will decline to 5.7 billion when nearly 1 billion GSM connections and 2 billion HSPA connections will remain.

India story so far. 5G spectrum auctions are planned in the latter half of 2019. The government set for itself a 5G Vision in December 2017 and allocated Rs 500 crore to 5G development. On the cards is setting up labs around the country and involving researchers, students and teachers from the five Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). Ericsson is partnering with IITs to setup this infrastructure,. The cumulative economic impact of 5G on India, according to a government steering committee report, can exceed USD 1 trillion by 2035.

Telcos such as Airtel have started exploring 5G technologies including Massive Mimo and carrier aggregation. In addition, they are assessing moves to cloud-based and more distributed network architecture, which may be necessary if operators are to take full advantage of 5G services. Vodafone Idea Limited maintains that it will be a software upgrade for the company to switch to 5G in future once the spectrum and ecosystem are available in the country. The telco is building the 4G network with a 5G architecture that uses things like cloud, massive Mimo and software-defined networking (SDN) and Networks Functions Virtualisation (NFV). RJio may have an edge as the youngest network operator in India, as it has already taken advantage of the latest equipment and built an all-IP network. That means it can avoid much of the modernization that will be required within other telco operations. Media reports now indicate that RJio plans to launch 5G within six months of the spectrum auction.

On the other hand, the Indian operators have already spent huge amounts on 4G spectrum and investment in 4G networks. They are still in the expansion stage and have yet to reap the benefits of growing consumption of 4G mobile broadband services. Investment to the amount, required in 5G may simply not be on the agenda right now.

Expensive spectrum and exorbitantly priced devices could conspire to delay the arrival of 5G in the country. Instead, telcos may continue expanding their existing 4G network with technologies like massive Mimo and new antennae (which amplify the existing spectrum) and 4.9G/Pre-5G to relieve the choking networks. Alternatively, if the price of spectrum drops, carriers could simply implement LTE on a 5G spectrum and cater to some of the newer applications. (like what they did with 3G spectrum, using it only for voice).

Indian carriers are seriously mulling on this. It is doubtful that any of these companies will rush into deploying 5G until monetisation is clearly in sight. Till that happens, the focus is shifting to ways to reduce India’s dependence on imports by bringing 5G telecoms manufacturing to India.

What’s more, the 5G use case is still not entirely clear. Proponents talk up its attractions for enterprise customers, but the 5G standards that would support these enterprise services are still not ready, and telcos will have to work closely with vertical markets on service development. In the meantime, in the absence of consumer applications that require faster-than-4G connections, it is hard to see why the average customer would cherish 5G over today’s technology.

Finally, there are the devices. Right now, the 5G devices ecosystem is far from ready and device makers including Samsung, Vivo, Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi do not expect gadgets to become widely available until late 2019 at the earliest.

So while the government is keen for a speedy 5G launch, circumstances on the ground could make that vision extremely hard to realize.

Piecing 5G Together. A successful 5G strategy will require network operators to address, in some way, a very broad range of technologies and processes, all of which will play a critical role in enabling them to capitalize on the full potential that a 5G deployment will offer. All of these are pieces in the Big 5G Picture jigsaw puzzle. Miss, or dismiss, any of the 20 elements, many of which are interdependent, and the picture will be incomplete and opportunities lost. Deploy them together and there just might be something for 5G business case doubters to chew on.

Current Status

Hyperscalers or FANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google), as they are popularly referred as, have been responsible for eating into the revenue of the traditional service providers for the better part of a decade. And moving forward these web-scale disruptors are outpacing their predecessors with highly scalable infrastructure.

The service providers pursued cost-cutting and operating efficiencies to squeeze out 3 to 6 percent in costs annually, often across the board and year after year. Be it through head-count reduction, CapEx optimization, or process efficiencies, this approach has been like drudging through mud difficult and slow. Furthermore, by cutting costs year after year, operators have become less attractive employers to top talent and much (if not all) of the gold-rush mentality of the 2000s has evaporated. While the FANGs mushroomed and built their businesses on the operators’ own infrastructure.

With all of its apparent inefficiencies, the telecom industry continues to grow at the relatively healthy pace of around 2.4 percent per year across the world. Compared to service providers in the web-world, that growth is pretty slow. Just a quick look at FANG  reveals what is going on. Google, the slowest among them, is still growing at a rate of over 15 percent year-over-year, or roughly six times the growth of telcos.

No doubt this had a serious impact on the telcos’ ability to innovate. However, there is one fundamental difference between the telcos and their web-scale challengers that is not so easily brushed off.  Since the gradual break-up of telecommunications monopolies across the world in the 1980s and 1990s, the telecommunications industry has been split between network equipment manufacturers and network service providers. This split resulted in keeping both types of companies very dependent on the abilities of the other type.

A critical deficiency shared by network service providers is an inability to retain any technical edge over other service providers. Meanwhile, over on the web-scale side, Google’s PageRank, Amazon’s ShoppingCart, and Facebook’s subscriber database are just some examples of what Warren Buffett calls the insurmountable moats around their castles of business. These are technologies they have developed, nurtured, and continue to use to outrank, and ultimately dominate, the rest of the industry.

Network service providers outsourced their most critical components of revenue generation, including hardware, software, and firmware to network equipment manufacturers.  When network service providers held market dominance in their respective markets — this model worked extremely well and helped both the service provider and the equipment manufacturer to thrive. Once the de facto monopolies began to disintegrate however, network service providers decided that open standards would be the solution to their problems. Open standards would allow them to substitute products from one network equipment manufacturer with those from another. While open standards provided them with greater leverage over manufacturers, the decision also caused the now-fundamental weakness of the industry: everything is now expandable, and no company is able to adequately protect its business.

Currently, the industry is trying to solve this problem through consolidation. This explains their desire to diversify business across various market segments, including wireless, enterprise, entertainment, and so on. On the equipment manufacturer side, consolidation results in a decreasing number of large companies capable of providing solutions to service providers in multiple market segments across the globe. These attempts are certainly well-intentioned but they seem somehow limited in their success so far.

On the other hand,  hyperscalers construct around their businesses, infrastructure capable of serving very large numbers of users and, more importantly, doing so with the smallest possible staff.

Digital transformation

A recent study by McKinsey & Company, highlights the key challenges facing telecom companies, where revenues have dropped an average of 6 percent since 2010.They point out that capital spending has remained stubbornly high, at around 15 percent–18 percent of revenue, and they don’t believe incremental cost cutting or business as usual improvements will alleviate the resulting squeeze on margins.

McKinsey recommends an aggressive approach to digital transformation, taking advantage of the newest software and hardware to add strategic value, while achieving cost savings. They believe that modern digital technologies offer the opportunity to streamline business functions, please customers, reduce costs and raise sales.

More than two-thirds of telecom operators are already well advanced on their transformation journey, according to research conducted by Ovum.

Telecom analysts predict that networks will go through extensive changes between now and 2025. The days of big iron boxes, proprietary solutions with vendor lock-in, disparate network and customer management tools are waning off. The networks of tomorrow will have more openness, software, speed and flexibility. What this means for operators is that they must reshape and remodel their networks to stay competitive in the new digital world.

The rising tsunami of big data, video and cloud computing is forcing communication service providers to make networks efficient and faster. By 2025, 5G will be deployed in many markets. Once 5G demand gets an upswing, LTE will remain a very important part of the wireless ecosystem, but by 2025 major LTE innovations will have slowed as 5G takes prominence. According to Ovum reports, older 2G and 3G systems will be in rapid decline and will have disappeared from some markets by 2025.

Specifically, service providers are challenged by IT and networking automation, scalability and reliability issues. But they’re not alone. Traditional technology hardware and software vendors will also have to compete with  public cloud providers, as service providers consider hyperscalers for their next compute and storage purchases, since many enterprises are moving workloads off-premises.

“Over the next two years, 60 percent of enterprises will run most of their IT in off-premises environments,” said Al Sadowski, research vice president at 451 Research.

As such, the traditional vendor community must adapt their product roadmaps, marketing programs and sales strategies to address the growing role service providers will play. Telecom service providers now choose vendors to work with based upon what services they must provide to customers and what differentiates them in the market.

With reliability being the most important vendor selection criterion they are also not afraid to forgo traditional hardware solutions in favor of simpler solutions to provision. Deploying hyperconverged platforms is gaining ground.

Additionally, the most represented services are not the fastest-growing IT segments, but remain backup and disaster recovery. Creating a competency for new technology and attracting customers takes time for service providers. Market disruption has caught up with the legacy IT and networking vendors. That said, this is an exciting time for the most forward-looking technology vendors that have embraced agile marketing and design thinking methodologies. They’re not afraid to explore new business models and open innovation strategies that enable progressive market development plans.

Around the world cellular networks exist at various stages of development, from legacy 2G through trials of 5G. Two of the biggest telecom infrastructure projects for the next decade will be to supplement existing 4G/ LTE networks with 5G, and to address the digital divide and bring connectivity to the 50 percent of the world’s population who still remain unconnected. In both cases, the capital investment and infrastructure needed is enormous, and new business models and routes to market are being designed to cope with the unique demands of the Asian market.

In developed markets, with 5G rapidly approaching, mobile network operators and infrastructure partners are ramping up their evaluation of the latest technologies for network densification, and looking to make network planning and purchasing decisions. In developing markets, mobile network operators, infrastructure companies, solution providers and governments are working together to provide internet and cellular service to over 4 billion hitherto unconnected citizens. Very often the solutions that are implemented in these developing markets do not follow the traditional network evolution path, with many nations leapfrogging to mobile broadband connectivity.

Small cells. The Asian continent contains both developed and developing markets, and it provides a microcosm for the world at large when we consider network evolution. If we look at the nations of Japan and India we can see the varying approaches to network densification taken in both developed and developing markets. In India we saw the highly disruptive approach of late market entrant, Reliance Jio when they launched their 4G network in 2016, with no legacy 2G/3G network support, adding 4.78 million new subscribers in one month (April to May 2017). With subscriber bases shifting at such a rapid pace, and data demand rising exponentially, an effective coverage and capacity solution was sought, and the winner, in this case, was deemed to be small cells, with Jio deploying over 100,000 in the last few months of 2017, and another 100,000 in 2018.

Small cell solutions are rapidly moving beyond just providing coverage within buildings or arenas, to becoming enablers of outdoor network densification. All major communications service providers have announced densification plans, with some already deploying small cells into their networks.

About a third of small cells are now deployed in outdoor environments, and by 2019 global demand for outdoor small cell solutions are expected to grow by a factor of six—compared to fourfold growth for indoor small cells. As CSPs look to further fortify networks for 5G upgrades small cells are set to serve as a key component.

There are plenty of reasons for organizations to move forward aggressively. Small cells promise a cost-effective solution for filling coverage gaps, increasing bandwidth, and getting the networks ready for 5G without the need to build more expensive macro sites.

Indoor applications are obvious and plentiful. Small cells are ideal for use in places where macro antennas cannot reach. They also offer a way to rapidly deploy the power of a network with precision and customization for outdoor environments—from sports venues and school campuses to the downtown street canyons and rural neighborhoods. With a small footprint of hardware, small cells attach discreetly to fixtures such as lampposts, signs, and other street furniture.

So what is the catch? The problem is small cells also bring additional complexity to the design of the network, and to the operational processes. To combat the increased complexity, manufacturers have built automated optimization and configuration tools into devices, and they have integrated multiple networking protocols and frequencies into a single package. However, those steps only go so far. Underestimate the scope of network and operational complexity, and you introduce the risk of higher costs and less flexibility with new applications. You also risk slowing your ability to react to changes in demand.

Two big shifts come into play for any organization developing a small cell strategy: a network design shift and an organizational shift.

Network design will involve moving from monolithic to multi-technology. To prepare for the future of 5G, an architecture that can seamlessly operate across multiple technology bases and between licensed and unlicensed spectrums is required. A nationwide macro environment contains thousands of cells to engineer, deploy, and maintain. A small cell environment has hundreds of thousands. In addition to shifting from a macro towers only mindset to a connect anything strategy, networks must operate both transparently and securely across licensed and unlicensed spectrums.

For an organizational shift, operational practices will need to shift from rigid to flexible and include dynamic toolsets. Light-touch cookie cutter processes will have to replace heavier, custom-engineered processes to control the cost and to speed up the delivery of those hundreds of thousands of cells. New ideas, tools, and organizational processes will be required to navigate the complexity of managing capacity and quality, even as the demand pattern remains essentially unknown and chaotic.

2018-The year that was

2018 was an important and transformational year for the networking industry. Consumer-driven data consumption, fuelled by the mobile and broadband services in IoT devices have soared and put unprecedented pressures on networks.

The landscape has changed shape as telcos pushed into the OTT space and increased their user access capabilities as well as high-profile merger activity in the sector making headline news.

In fixed networks, we reached 1 billion broadband connections worldwide and investment in fiber continues at pace. All this fiber growth is being fueled by interest from financial investors, particularly from infrastructure funds who now have confidence in fiber as a stable, long-term play. In addition to new entrants, there’s also interest in existing assets: Altice’s sale of a major stake in its French FTTH network for €1.8B and Elliott’s agitation for Telecom Italia to spin off its network show there is appetite where a deal can be done.

If we could pick one word to describe the telecoms industry in 2018 it would be transformation. However, while pretty much every telco CEO has a plan, there is no single view of what transformation means for a traditional network operator. On the cost side, all have plans to trim their operating expenses; many firms announced job cuts in the thousands; and, automation and AI are seen as key enablers. Huawei went as far as saying it could reduce Network Operations by 90 percent. To get to these savings, telcos desperately need to hire engineers with software and SDN/NFV skills which are, paradoxically, in short supply.

Looking beyond cost, we see many telcos now pursuing digital transformation which combines the automation/AI, more use of digital sales and support channels, and greater internal agility and innovation. The most ambitious are looking hard at how to reposition their firm, e.g. as a platform provider (think Edge Computing), or as the developer of over-the-top applications, no longer tied to the operator’s own network.

Three narratives stood out in digital media this year. First, in online video, the arms race for high-quality content continued to escalate. Competition for consumers has inflated budgets for original content. Netflix plan to spend USD 8B this year, Amazon is estimated to be in for USD 5B, and Apple is just getting started at around USD 1B. Disney’s acquisition of Fox, indicates it’s going to take some deep pockets to stay in the game.

Second, in broadcast TV is the remarkable tale of industrial-scale piracy in the Middle East. Qatari broadcaster BeIN Sports is seeking USD 1B in damages from Saudi Arabia for its alleged involvement in the pirate satellite channel, BeoutQ, that was illegally re-broadcasting premium content including the FIFA World Cup and the Formula One World Championship.

And third, in video games, we had the runaway success of Fortnite. With revenues exceeding USD 1B/month, Fortnite is a great case study in free-to-play gaming.

Our expectation that privacy and data security issues would only get worse in 2018 did not disappoint. Top prize this year goes to the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal in which the personal information of millions of users was harvested and traded for political advertising. Quite remarkably, all the data had been obtained from Facebook’s platform without any need for hacking. Other notable mentions go out to Marriott Hotels (details of c.500 million users stolen), Under Armour (150 million), Quora (100 million) and myHeritage (92 million) which all suffered security breaches of one form or another.

2018 also saw the EU GDPR legislation come into effect, setting new, harmonized requirements for the handling of EU citizens’ personal data. Maximum penalties for non-compliance are higher of €20M or 4% of global revenues, which is hopefully sufficient to focus minds.

Some Predictions for 2019

Fiber assets will attract more investment. Investment in FTTP networks will continue to gather pace with renewed confidence from the financial sector and a desire to capture first-mover advantage. Mobile backhaul will play a crucial role in new build, with demand for multi-Gbps backhaul at macro sites and, at least in the US, dense networks for small cells. Meanwhile, FTTP consolidation will start to play out in the most mature markets.

We will start to see differentiation in 5G strategies. The launch of 5G services during 2019 will start to show clear differences between mobile operators in how they view this new technology and how they want to use it. MNOs will pursue strategies that best leverage their own position in spectrum holding, network assets, customer base, and financial resources. Divisions will emerge between those initially focused on fixed-wireless access versus mobility.

In-home Wi-Fi will become a new growth area. In residential broadband, consumers will become increasingly aware that in-home Wi-Fi is often a broadband bottleneck. In response, we expect to see more ISPs launch managed multi-room Wi-Fi solutions. Where successful, these will improve customer experience and provide ISPs with a new, sticky revenue stream.

Network operators will move beyond trials in NFV deployment. Surely 2019 will be the year in which we see a wider range of virtualized network functions in wireline (fixed) networks. vBNG and vCDN are likely candidates as service providers optimize their broadband networks for yet more streamed video content. By pushing caching closer to the users, operators will be able to reduce CapEx and deliver improved QoE.

The Edge Computing market will start to heat up. Follow developments in Edge Computing closely. Next year we believe the competitive battleground will become better defined from a technology, product and market perspective. Players in the market will jostle for attention, each pointing to their own specific strengths.

Established players will launch managed security services. With the constant stream of news on security breaches, we expect to see more activity in Managed Security services from telecom and technology companies. Applicable to both the consumer and business segments, customers are becoming overwhelmed by the scale and range of threats, creating opportunities for a more proactive stance in IoT, Smart Home and business services.

Pay TV providers will invest heavily in customer experience. As the cord-cutting and cord-never trend continues into 2019, video subscriber retention will remain a top priority for pay TV providers. To promote retention and customer loyalty, providers will attempt to differentiate from one another and demonstrate value to the consumer through features such as streamlined UI/UX and optimized content recommendation systems.

Content fragmentation will lead to more piracy and credential sharing. The power struggles to gain a competitive advantage in content distribution will see content owners investing more in direct-to-consumer services and attempting to withhold content from Netflix/Hulu. As a result, it will become increasingly hard for consumers to access all desired content without subscribing to multiple services. Many will reject this, leading to an uptick in piracy and credential sharing as consumers feel the full effects of subscription fatigue.

Video gaming and eSports will appear in the ‹scopes of service providers. The success of Epic/Fortnite is impossible to ignore and the breakthrough of live streaming on traditional TV is fascinating. Aside from more studios trying to win big on free-to-play titles, we think the timing might be right for some cross-sector M&A, or at least for ISPs to work closer with publishers to build specific services for hard-core gamers.

Operators will find tangible benefits in Machine Learning as the hype starts to wind down. In 2019, we expect Machine Learning (and Artificial Intelligence overall) will continue to exhibit large growth and investment, but the hype around it will recede. Operators are starting to see clearly positive business cases, and this will accelerate the roll-out of AI/ML initiatives into 2019. As customer experience becomes more important and a differentiating factor in an increasingly crowded market, service providers need to fully leverage all the data they have.

Monetising Data

The next wave of data and data consumption is going to be a huge move in 2019.

“We are at an inflection point from an industry perspective on the revenue side. Broadly speaking, in the last 2-3 years, across Southeast Asia, operators have been struggling to grow revenue at a service level. And that’s primarily because growth in the smartphone has seen voice and SMS revenue declining. Even though data has been growing, it is not growing fast enough to substitute for the loss of revenue from voice and SMS,” says Analysys Mason’s partner for consulting, Amrish Kacker.

“There is only so much voice and SMS revenue that can be cannibalized and we have reached the stage where most of that cannibalization is done. What this means is that all the growth in data that you are going to get is going to drive growth in revenue and top line for operators,” he notes.

The growth in data revenue will see innovation taking place as operators race to grow their data services business without the distraction that comes with persistent voice and SMS concerns.

“We are in the internet-on-mobile phase of the market in most of Asia. Expect content-on-mobile becoming a significant player. We expect a lot more innovation around the areas of marketing data services, as well as more innovation on content-on-mobile. Together, these two will result in greater revenue growth as opposed to flat revenues,” concludes Kacker.

“Overall, data monetization presents an opportunity for diversification and a new income stream. It cannot be expected to transform a CSP’s fortunes but is absolutely worth pursuing!, concludes Hugh Ujhazy, head of research for the Internet of Things and Telco Practice at IDC Asia-Pacific.

“India has moved from the 155th rank in mobile broadband penetration to being number one nation in mobile data consumption in the world in less than two years. This is the fastest transition anywhere in the world from 2G/3G to 4G. By 2020, I believe that India will be a fully-4G country and ready for 5G ahead of other countries.”

Mukesh Ambani
Chairman,
Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited

“Vodafone Idea Limited is focusing on NB-IoT (narrowband IoT) technology as it has the potential to drive mass deployment, helping to bring down the cost of devices that arecrucial for India.

India needs to develop an entire ecosystem around IoT, including devices, network, platforms and applications. The focus should be on how do we as India produce most of those devices and leverage software skills locally, besides operating at common standards and capabilities.”

Nick Gliddon
Chief Business Officer,
Vodafone Idea Limited

Technology trends -2019

A.K. Sharma
Sr. Vice President-Operations,
Savitri Telecom Services

In 2018 we got the first ever Digital Communications Policy NDCP 18, which has articulated its objectives along these lines:

Connect India. This aims to create a robust digital communication infrastructure by promoting optical fiber connectivity, deployment of public wi-fi hotspots, making spectrum available and optimal pricing of spectrum, etc.

Propel India. This seeks to enable next-generation technologies and services by taking several steps towards facilitating the deployment of these technologies. Such steps include improving regulatory processes such as the Wireless Planning Cell, promoting research and development, incentivizing domestic technologies and manufacturing.

Secure India. This aims to ensure the security and safety of digital communications through a comprehensive data security regimethrough steps such as addressing security issues relating to encryption and security clearances, building capacity for security testing and promoting consumer sovereignty through adherence to net neutrality.

The first objective of Connect India requires optical fiber connectivity across the nation. This is all the more vital for the viability of 5G network. Fiber kilometer (fkm) per capita is much less in India compared to several other key markets. The fkm per capita for China with 1.3 billion people is 0.87 whereas that of India with 1.2 billion people is just 0.09 which is about one-tenth of China. In the US and Japan, the per capita fkm is 1.3 and above.

2019 would be an important year for India from a 5G rollout standpoint. The government wishes that the rollout be such that it allows reaping the benefits of better data speeds. 5G has the potential to become a key catalyst especially in adoption of technologies like the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Augmented Reality by industries at grass root levels.

India has the second largest mobile phone user base in the world. Telecom sector plays a vital role in our national agenda. Consolidation of the Indian telecom sector is now complete. The large players are well placed to take the sector on a growth path. This will enable the telecom equipment industry also to do well in 2019. Thus there is a cautious optimism in the equipment industry.

Savitri Group stands to gain from the current technology trends which will help us to grow in all our business areas be it technology solutions, manufacturing, services or infrastructures.

“Our ambition is to build a digital Airtel. In addition to being a telecom company, we are asking ourselves what more can we do riding on the infrastructure that we have built. I think there are some logical things you can do on top of the telecom game: financial services, data centres, enterprise, home broadband. And then finally, things that are a little bit out there where the business model is less proven—content—where we are making bets but these are not big bets that are busting the company,”

Gopal Vittal
MD & CEO (India & South Asia),
Bharti Airtel

“Airtel has been a pioneer when it comes to introducing latest technologies in the Indian telecom sector. Innovation is core to our DNA and we will continue to build exciting digital products for a Digital India,”

Randeep Sekhon
CTO,
Bharti Airtel

“The business case for new generation wireless is always uncertain or risky, 5G is even more so with many non-phone applications. So we may need a new class of carriers for public networks, private networks, even government-aided networks for certain verticals, etc. Europe is looking at these. All this will take time to shake out.”

Arogyaswami J Paulraj
Chairman of DoT’s High Level 5G India 2020 Forum, and professor emeritus at
Stanford University.

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