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Key trends in telecom sector: India 2023 and beyond

The year 2022 was a revolutionary year for the Indian telecom industry with some high-decibel, stand-out developments and regulatory initiatives taken to boost the digital economy. The launch of 5G services was a big turning point, ushering the era of technological advancements and connected ecosystem. It was also encouraging to see multifaceted telecom reforms and announcements made in Union Budget 2023 that shows positive outlook and growth potential of the telecom industry and become a defining sector of the decade.

GSMA’s ‘Government Leadership Award 2023’ to India is a testimony showing global confidence in India telecom industry’s growth backed by strong regulatory reforms and initiatives driven by the telecom ministry around spectrum auctions, digital inclusion, sustainability, next generation technology innovations, and enhanced consumer welfare.

Defining trends in 2023 that contributed to this global recognition
Ease of setting up digital infrastructure. Advancements in “GatiShakti Sanchar” portal eased the Right of Way (RoW) approvals for efficient deployments of network infrastructure, resulted in faster mobile tower clearances for more than 85 percent of applications. More than 200,000 5G sites are deployed over the last eight months across cities due to efficient and faster approval processes.

Announcements for future readiness – Union Budget 2023 has announced setting up 100 test labs for developing applications for 5G services, focus on upskilling the youth on emerging technologies and creation of COEs for AI with a vision of “Make AI work for India”.

Focus on climate and sustainability – Green solution initiatives have been taken with a focus on cost reductions, power saving, energy efficiency, reducing associated carbon emissions, and utilizing hybrid power sources with solar and wind energy.

Strengthen data protection and governance – Initiation of the data governance policy in draft to drive growth initiatives of startups to monetize non-personal data in a secured and legal manner. The benefits that are derived from access to anonymized data will enable data models in machine learning and AI to be tested across industries in conjunction with Data Protection Bill 2022.

Cybersecurity – Initiatives taken to enhance the cybersecurity and privacy posture across the entire digital ecosystem adopting enhanced security technologies and capabilities such as EDR/ XDR, Zero Trust Architecture, Cloud Security, IoT Security.

Developing India as an investment destination –Investments of around `4,115 crores are committed by more than 40 companies under PLI scheme including 28 MSMEs to expedite production for telecom and networking products focusing to enable 5G roll-outs and device compatibility.

With remarkable breakthroughs reforms in 2022, new propositions through the Telecom Bill (expected to be tabled in the monsoon session) and significant focus to expand digital ecosystem, India is all set to leapfrog and lead the world with forward looking momentum to continue through to 2023 and beyond.

Roadmap 2023 and beyond – India ahead with setting forth the 6G vision for India
Bharat 6G vision document aims to facilitate finance R&D, design, and development of 6G technologies by Indian startups, research bodies, and universities to enable India to become a leading global supplier of IP, products, and solutions for affordable 6G telecom solutions. Phase 1 (2023 to 2025) is expected to explore ideas, risky pathways, and proof-of-concept tests. Phase 2 (2026 to 2030) is expected to develop ideas, establish use cases and benefits, create IP, and set up test beds for commercialization.

5G widespread implementation of proofs of concepts, use-cases across sectors is set to take the industry forward in its journey to realize the full 5G potential. As per KPMG’s 5G enterprise survey, more than 85 per cent of enterprises across multiple sectors are expecting up to 20 per cent ROI on various 5G/industry 4.0 use-cases. For 21 percent of the 5G/industry 4.0 use cases, the median gestation period (period between conceptualization, solution building, to launch) will take 6-12 months.

Deployment of open-source solutions like Open RAN, open Wi-Fi, open digital architectures will be si-gnificantly mainstreamed this year and will find greater acceptability as key drivers of innovation and cost competitiveness.

Investments to digital infrastructure – With 5G services being available PAN India, proper indoor coverage is still likely to push beyond 2023 and enterprises adoption also may face some pushback to navigate a downturn in the macroeconomic scenario. Towers fiberization, and small cell deployments will continue to be deployed on wider scale.

New Telecom Bill and Data Governance policy –The government is scheduled to release the second draft of the Telecom Bill 2022 sometime in 2023. The bill expects to addresses the legacy and current issues facing the telecom sector but also proposes to provide a future-ready framework.

Data governance policy is quintessential to effectively drive growth initiatives of startups to monetize non-personal data in a secured and legal manner. The benefits that will be derived from access to anonymized data will enable data models in machine learning and AI to be tested across industries. The policy will also be reviewed in conjunction with the initiative of the government on the Data Protection Bill, 2022.

Satellite based communication services – TRAI has released a consultation paper on Assignment of Spectrum for Space-based Communication Services and we may possibly see satellite communication and internet services launch in India possibly by end 2023. Satellite internet will be key to delivering internet services to remote areas which are difficult to cater via broadband or mobile network.

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