Times are changing for the Indian telecommunications industry. The growing number of subscribers, as well as the increasing consumption of the mobile broadband services across the country, is fundamentally altering the networks and the way business is conducted for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).
The number of broadband subscribers grew from 300.8 million in June 2017 to 447.12 million in June 2018, according to the data released by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). A significant drop in the prices of smartphones coupled with the availability of low-priced mobile broadband packages has led to the growing consumption of mobile broadband across the country. Further, the popularity of Internet content providers, like Facebook and WhatsApp, is also contributing to the growth of mobile broadband in the country.
This has put tremendous pressure on the networks, which were primarily built for voice and not data and so are not geared to meet this kind of consumption of mobile broadband.
Service providers realize that upgradation and modernization of the networks is crucial not just to address the mobile broadband needs of their subscribers but to also introduce innovative products faster to fight competition and enhance their revenue.
Going beyond the core
To address this demand, service providers will be adding more than 400,000 base stations in the next two years. Backhaul is a significant challenge for the industry as the telcos go about expanding the networks to meet the growing demand.
Migration from legacy infrastructure to packet-based services in access networks is an integral part of the network transformation. Service providers have to now move from the traditional microwave-based backhaul to IP-based backhaul. Typically, microwave-based backhaul is not as effective for delivering a quality mobile broadband experience. High-quality Optical Packet Access (MPLS-TP/IP) is required to obtain the best capacity and data throughput.
This transition from microwave to IP based backhaul is not without challenges. There have been a spate of mergers and acquisitions in the Indian telecom industry. Service providers need to modernize their systems in a limited time frame to defend their market position. All this even as there revenue continues to decline due to increased competition and new disruptive service provider.
5G will dramatically drive up backhaul requirements, especially as users start preferring a mobile connection over fixed, due to its flexibility and portability. This will become more pronounced as tariffs for wireless data close in on those for fixed.
5G goes hand in hand with IoT, this means many low bandwidth or NarrowBand (NB) connections. 5G will provide a more economical path to these NB devices compared to fixed, so the demand for low capacity fixed connections will drop, as the capacity demand for 5G backhaul rises.
Beyond backhaul, service providers have also started to explore automation to bring down the operational cost. Not only does automation help in improving the speed of deployment but also benefits by eliminating human errors. Service providers have already started to leverage automation or automation-enabling capabilities. Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP), service scripting, Software Defined Networking (SDN), Network Function Virtualization (NFV), and Life Cycle Service Orchestration (LSO) can be used to bring down the manual tasks and also to scale up easily and quickly. Truly intelligent automation, which leverages big data analytics and machine learning can further help service providers to manage their operations efficiently.
The changing scenario
These changes in the networks have also led to significant changes in the relationship between vendors and service providers. The telcos are looking for technologies and approaches which enable them to rollout networks faster with low deployment cost to allow them to meet the timelines with low capital expenditure. Vendors, like Ciena, have a unique role to play in this regard as they help the telcos in coming up with innovative strategies to bring down the cost and enhance efficiency. Ciena has revamped its partner ecosystem in keeping with the changing market scenario. This strategy helps in faster scale-up of service providers’ operations and in expanding the geographical reach for deployment of packet and aggregation networks.
Measures like the faster turnaround of return and repairs, establishing local repair facility, and installation of quality checks for trouble-free operations go a long way in supporting service providers in their transformation journey. We believe these measures contribute to significant improvement in deployment timeframes coupled with a 20% reduction in operational costs. The key is to help service providers in turning their vision of programmable and intelligent network into a reality.
As the mobile broadband consumption continues to rise, India needs networks that are scalable, resilient and easy to deploy and manage. A partnership with the vendor who understands the unique concerns of the Indian service providers and comes up with innovative solutions to address them will enable them in upgrading the networks for present and future requirements.