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Telecommunication at the forefront of digital transformation: The role of optical fibre

In December 2022, India’s total subscriber base reached 1170.38 mn with a tele-density of 57.69 percent for rural subscribers. The overall wireless internet data usage has increased almost 7 times from around 4,200 petabytes in 2018 to 32,397 petabytes in 2021, making India one of the biggest consumers of data worldwide. According to TRAI, the average wireless data usage per wireless data subscriber was 16.40 GB per month in June 2022, a significant increase from 61.66 MB in March 2014.

The Department of Telecommunications was allocated USD 11.92 billion in the Union Budget 2023-24, out of which USD 48.88 million is for Research and Development and USD 611.1 million is for BharatNet. Additionally, the FDI inflow in the telecom sector between April 2000-December 2022 stood at USD 39.02 billion.

These numbers indicate that the telecom sector in India is poised for continued growth and development.

Affordable high-speed internet has been key to India’s digital transformation, thanks to the growth of 4G and 5G networks. Telecoms have also driven financial inclusion through mobile banking and digital payments. Telemedicine has made healthcare more accessible, while online education has opened up new opportunities.

OFC: Enabling the present & future of telecom
As the telecom industry rapidly advances, digital transformation is driving it to new heights, with emerging technologies such as 5G networks and the IoT revolutionizing the way people communicate and do business. At the forefront of this transformation is optical fibre. Its role has become increasingly important in creating a robust digital network. The development of a deep fibre backbone is key to the creation of a ubiquitous network. In this regard, government support through initiatives such as BharatNet aims to develop around 10,000 km of OFC infrastructure across India by fiscal year 2024-25. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has unveiled its intentions to establish an integrated network spanning approximately 10,000 kilometers of OFC infrastructure throughout India by the fiscal year 2025. NHAI’s subsidiary, National Highways Logistics Management Limited (NHLML), will spearhead the project, constructing utility corridors along national highways to facilitate the development of the OFC infrastructure. This extensive OFC network will extend internet connectivity to remote regions in India and support the country’s transition to advanced telecommunication technologies like 5G and 6G.

With digital transformation accelerating, the telecom industry is relying on optical fibre to provide the necessary infrastructure for many of the latest telecommunication technologies. Connecting smart city devices, such as sensors, cameras, and traffic lights, connecting hospitals and clinics enabling them to share data and images in real time, connecting schools and universities, enabling them to deliver online courses and collaborate with other institutions, etc, the benefits are far too many.

Optical fibre has emerged as a game-changer in the deployment of 5G networks, given the high bandwidth and low latency requirements of this next-generation technology. The use of optical fibre as a backbone for the 5G network infrastructure enables seamless interconnectivity among its various components. Moreover, its superior transmission capabilities, especially over long distances, contribute significantly to lowering the cost of 5G network deployment.

It is a critical component for the IoT which involves connecting a massive number of devices and sensors that require high-speed data transfer and low latency. For instance, in smart cities, thousands of sensors are used to monitor traffic, weather, pollution levels, and other critical data. Optical fibre provides a high-speed backbone network that can handle the massive data traffic generated by these sensors, enabling real-time monitoring and analysis for improved decision-making.

Cloud computing is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the tech industry, and OFC is playing a big role in enabling its growth. Businesses that are migrating to cloud services require fast and reliable data transfer rates with low latency to ensure a smooth transition. For instance, a company can use OFC to connect to a cloud service provider and transmit large amounts of data quickly and securely. This is essential for businesses that rely on cloud services for tasks such as data storage, software applications, and virtual machines, among others.

Charting the path forward
India’s telecom market has seen explosive growth over the past few years, making it the world’s second-largest telecom market. Its worth noting that the wireless segment accounts for 95.4 percent of the total telephone subscriptions, highlighting the importance of mobile devices in the country.

Looking ahead, the rise in mobile-phone penetration and declining data costs are expected to further increase internet usage in India, with an estimated 500 million new internet users set to come online over the next five years. The falling cost of data has made it possible for people and businesses to use data in ways that were not possible just a few years ago. For example, people can now stream movies and music, play online games, and work from home without having to worry about data costs. Businesses can now use data to collect customer information, track inventory, and automate processes. This presents significant opportunities for businesses, especially those operating in the digital space.

To support this growth, the Indian government has made significant investments in telecom infrastructure, with approximately USD 78 billion spent on laying 5,84,747 km of OFC as of July 2022, connecting 1,87,245 Gram Panchayats (according to IBF). Moreover, service is already available on fiber and satellite in 1,81,888 Gram Panchayats. This infrastructure will be essential in providing high-quality connectivity to new internet users in India, and the growth in infrastructure is expected to continue to meet the demands of the expanding market.

As a result, the telecom industry in India is poised for significant growth, and businesses that can capitalize on this opportunity stand to benefit greatly. The stage is set for innovative companies to develop cutting-edge technologies that can help meet the evolving demands of the market and take advantage of the new wave of internet users.

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