The Indian telecom industry is on the cusp of significant changes. Growing consumption of mobile broadband services, forever dropping average revenue per user (ARPU), hypercompetitive environment, and new technologies like 5G are fundamentally altering the networks and the business models.
The service providers are no longer just providing basic voice and data services. The emergence of the digital economy is creating new and innovative business models. The telcos are expanding in newer areas to meet the digital demands of their consumers. The three major Indian service providers, Bharti Airtel, Jio, and Vodafone Idea, have acquired payment bank license. Further, Jio owns Network18, a prominent media company to differentiate its content offering. Airtel has forged deals with major content providers like ALTBalaji.
Upgrading the network to meet future demands
At the same time, they are investing significantly in networks to cater to meet the evolving and forever increasing digital needs of their subscribers. As Indians start to use digital platforms for various activities, like mobile commerce, mobile banking and more, they also demand the best-in-class quality of service.
The service providers also need to expand, upgrade, and modernize the networks to leverage the vast potential of the upcoming technologies like 5G. With ultra-high speed, low latency, and network slicing, 5G enables many innovative and exciting use cases, including remote surgery, autonomous driving, smart cities, internet of things (IoT), industrial automation, and more. It opens up new revenue streams for the telcos.
At the same time, the 5G technology is going to be all-encompassing and demands that the telcos collaborate with other industry verticals to come up with use cases specific to that business. The operators will need to come up with industry-specific offerings (or slices) and applications to enhance their revenue. Smart city is a classic example of this. Smart city projects promise to connect traffic, public safety, weather, parking, and more. The Indian government has launched the Smart Cities Mission to develop 100 smart cities in the country.
In the same vein, the telcos will need to work with healthcare, finance, auto, and manufacturing industries to develop use cases based on their unique requirements. Further, industry automation opens up new avenues. The Indian government has also launched initiatives, like Digital India and Smart Cities Mission to drive the consumption of digital services in the country. The 5G networks are crucial in implementing the Smart Cities Vision of the government since it enables IoT’s and machine-to-machine communications’ various innovative use cases.
New demands = new tech approach
These new business models and customer expectations demand a fundamentally different approach. The new digital economy places very different requirements from the service providers from what they are used to. To begin with, the sheer number of connected people and things have increased the challenge manifold for the service providers. The telcos now have to facilitate billions of transactions in real time. Not just that the service providers also need to store and analyze this data for monetization. Clearly, the demands on service providers are immense. On top of this, the subscribers expect the best-in-class network experience.
The one-size fits all approach is unlikely to work in the 5G era. Newer concepts like service-based architecture (SBA), IT-centric cloud services, and network slicing can help the telcos in not just surviving but also thriving in the intense challenge of the upcoming always and anywhere connected world.
Service-based architecture, The SBA will help the Indian telcos not just to leverage the vast potential of the 5G core technology but also transform into a digital service provider (DSP). It effectively brings together IT networking, cloud, and mobile service technologies for easier scalability and slicing of the network.
Network slicing. The concept of network slicing, which is key to a 5G network, is going to be crucial as the Indian service providers transition to 5G. It leverages software defined networking (SDN) and cloud native principles, and allows the telcos to slice the network into many virtual networks. So each virtual network can tailor to specific requirements and use cases such as MBB (enhanced mobile broadband), URLLC (ultra reliable low latency communications), or mMTC (massive machine type communications). It makes it easier for telcos to expand, scale, and meet the different requirements of the consumers. The telcos can also use slice-as-a-service to bring down the operational cost and also focus on the revenue-generating services.
Network slicing is going to be prerequisite in the 5G era of billions of devices and things connected all the time. Nearly 20.8 billion devices will be connected by 2020, and this concept will be required to ensure that these things function without an error. This is a key to ensure service prioritization as well.
The policy. Unified analytics will be required for complete data insights from different units of network slices. Further, a 5G network will also support a number of partner services. The management of the 5G network is going to be vastly different from the current networks. End-to-end orchestration to manage physical and virtual infrastructure would be the key. This will also be the key to help the telcos to monetize their assets.
As the Indian telcos start to take baby steps toward the adoption of 5G, they need to adopt these technology concepts to thrive in the 5G ecosystem. The digital service opportunities are immense, and the operators can use concepts like service-based architecture and network slicing to maximize their returns from 5G and other technologies.