Secretary–Telecom and Chairman–Digital Communications Commission
“The telecom industry, including COAI, has done a tremendous job. India could not have dealt with this pandemic without the support and perseverance of the digital network and the telecom sector. On March 22, when lockdown started, the mobile data consumption jumped from 270-303 petabytes, and then stabilized to 297-300 petabytes. No doubt, multi-stakeholder effort is critical, the industry, the government, regulator, and of course, the consumer all have to collaborate for both the health and wealth of the nation and for taking the digital footprint to greater heights. The National Broadband Mission launched in December 2019 will be very critical for the digital networks in the country. We should seize the opportunity. COVID has posed great challenges, but it has also given the telecom and the digital sector a never-before opportunity to catapult to a new league altogether. And this will be encouraged by all sections of the government and by the society at large. May we all together move to achieve the vision of Digital India! Our wireline infrastructure has to accelerate and increase manifold. TRAI had given a recommendation on wireline way back in 2015. Also, E&V bands have huge potential. As we move to 5G, and even otherwise, the huge potential in this band needs to be tapped. DoT is seized of the issue. In fact the NDCP has also identified this as an actionable point.”
Dr RS Sharma
Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going! As at the time of Aadhar in 2009-10, we can show the world the way forward. We are the second-largest telecommunication network in the world. This is a great opportunity to join hands and build the much required digital network–a network that is required in the payment space, e-signatures, the hospital appoinments, and many, many more verticals. The foundation of all these new platforms will be provided by the telecom industry, be it connectivity of gigabytes by sensors, 5G, IoT, M2M, and Big Data. These are testing times, and the journey is difficult, but this is not new for you, the telecom sector. You have walked the tortuous path since the last 20 years! Now not only 1.2 billion connected individuals but also 50 billion connected devices will require a completely new paradigm, an absolutely new business model. The long-term strategy must be to allow free interplay of various players in this ecosystem. The telecom platform will have to leapfrog, unbundle, and open up. The current business model is restrictive. There is a need to be more futuristic and understand the important role we can play. Innovation must be allowed to happen; new markets be created, and new use cases allowed to come up.”
Group CEO, Sterlite Technologies
“The current pandemic has made the digital shift permanent. Earlier, there was largely one telecom application, voice with some text thrown in, and the only asset was spectrum. But now within digital, there is a clear demarcation between a platform and infrastructure. A platform is service-provisioning with technologies like AI and blockchain, and applications ranging from healthcare to video conferencing to entertainment, while infrastructure is the network that many of us are creating. In the digital paradigm, the separation of service provisioning with applications and infrastructure ownership will start becoming apparent. The usage patterns have changed location, not only from office to home but have also shifted to becoming symmetric, from one-way download traffic to both, download and upload traffic. There is a large increase in traffic, with more and more asynchronous applications. Enterprises have come to the infrastructure for the first time and in a major way. All the applications are being taken for granted; be it sales force on cloud or SAP on cloud, we are collaborating on the cloud in real time, and latency has become extremely important. This current shift to digital would require a new kind of infrastructure and architecture. A converged wired and wireless will co-exist, fiber-plus 5G and fiber-plus Wi-Fi, and connectivity will be with storage and compute together. The third attribute is that the network is becoming disaggregated, with distinct hardware and software separation. These provide a great opportunity for India to be catapulted to the new league that requires a new level of investment. Till now, the investments on the digital infrastructure have been 0.3–0.4 percent of GDP. Globally, most countries spend 1.5–2 percent. Multiple initiatives have been taken at a global level in this regard. The FCC very recently allocated 1200 MHz of spectrum as unlicensed. I see that as an investment by the US government. Foregoing and not waiting to monetize spectrum within 1–2 years of auction will spur innovation and mind-boggling demand for new use-cases. We have to focus toward creating similar investment. I would urge the government and TRAI to evaluate how we can create unlicensed spectrum where telcos can offload traffic, private enterprise usage starts, and where local buildouts of localized Wi-Fi network starts happening–very similar to the kind of massive cable TV network we had–and that is the need of the hour.”
MD and CEO, Vodafone Idea
“To make this come true, Nurture the Indian telecom sector, and see the wonders unfold, we will have to evolve. We will have to convert our infrastructure, the connectivity layer into an enabling layer, where digital e-commerce can take place. Our industry provides the core infrastructure and core connectivity; we need to transform ourselves into a platform to enable multiple connectivity to take place.
After the Internet Revolution, the next revolution powered by new technologies, such as IoT, M2M, ML, AI, and Blockchain capabilities is already here. And we as an industry have a lot to contribute.
Key will be collaboration, not only amongst the players of the industry, but a larger collaboration with TRAI, DoT, and other governmental bodies. Only then will it become the requisite platform we are looking for, that can touch all the parts of the government and the economy.”
Managing Director, Reliance Jio Infocomm
“With 500 crore Indians now using the 4G-enabled data, the internet is no longer just for the privileged class. We have achieved a lot, but still have far to go! Telecom as a utility is as important as power and water. Digital connectivity is absolutely essential for our requirements. In spite of having received unstinted support from DoT, TRAI, and so many other departments, the message has not yet percolated all the way down to the teams supporting telecom. The same priority is not being felt by many. This shortcoming is realized at the time of calamity, and if certain timely steps are taken, we can overcome these minor handicaps, save lives, and bounce back even faster than we have done in the past.”