The entire bedrock of Digital India platform is connectivity – enabled by 4G, and soon with 5G. Over the past 25 years, the telecom sector has been one of the primary catalysts in the transformation of India and its economy.
The telecom industry has truly played a seminal role during this pandemic by keeping a nation of over one billion connected – an outstanding feat. At Airtel, we understood early that it was important for businesses, employees, customers and regulators to remain connected. Our services have been the digital oxygen that has kept the country going by enabling people to work, study, consult doctors, help others, and be entertained.
Customer obsession is in our DNA. At Airtel, our strategy is simple and consistent. A relentless obsession with customer experience and a razor-sharp focus on quality customers.
Today we serve over 35 crore mobile and over 50 lakh fixed-line customers in India. Almost 48 percent of our customers come from rural India. Our mobile recharges that used to be around 30 percent pre-pandemic are around 55 percent today. Our average mobile data consumption has reached 19 GB/month.
Our Enterprise business is now a big growth engine as we look to deliver a range of solutions beyond connectivity, by leveraging our deep relationships and trust. Last year, we launched a range of new Enterprise services in promising segments, such as Adtech, IoT, cloud communication, cloud, and security.
Today, we run the largest network of data centers in India, operating 10 large and 120 edge data centers, located strategically across India. Being environmentally responsible, we are aggressively scaling up the use of green energy to power these data centers by commissioning captive solar power plants in UP and Maharashtra, with still more in the pipeline. We have also committed to science-based targets (SBTi).
The digital future is here: With our large investments in network and spectrum, we are well positioned to lead the introduction of emerging technologies, such as 5G. India is set to be the second-largest smartphone nation by 2025, and with a young India, digital usage will only grow. 5G with integration of AI, big data, IoT, and cloud computing will transform the industrial landscape to usher in Industry 4.0, further benefitting India’s socio-economy.
A GSMA study says that 5G is expected to contribute around USD 455 billion to the Indian economy, accounting for more than 0.6 percent of GDP by 2040, with manufacturing, retail, and ICT expected to be the top three sectors to benefit.
With digital platforms operating at scale across the organization, we believe that we have all the building blocks for the next phase of our growth. Today, we have the ability to develop world-class platforms and digital solutions on the back of our in- house engineering talent and strong partnerships with best in-the-class players. This is a big transformation as we embed digital into our DNA and sharpen our focus on serving customers, who live in a world of connected devices.
We became the first telecom operator in India to demonstrate 5G over a live network, and are at the forefront of O-RAN Alliance initiatives. We aim to collaborate with domestic and global companies to make India a hub for 5G technology development. Our strategic partnership with TCS to jointly develop and deploy homegrown 5G solutions is a step in the direction of Aatmanirbhar Bharat.
Opening up of the space sector for private participation will bring connectivity to rural and remote areas. Through active collaboration with OneWeb’s LEO satellite constellation, we will ensure backhaul capacity to bring fiber-like performance everywhere.
Our journey to become a digital powerhouse has picked up pace despite several headwinds. We kept our faith in India story, raising funds, constant investments in networks, spectrum, and services.
The government too realized the importance of the sector. The recent bold and progressive reforms under visionary leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi will help address some of the legacy challenges.
While that is a good start, there are still important issues that would need to be tackled as we go forward. Policymakers and the regulator need to address challenges of high spectrum pricing, backhaul spectrum (especially E&V bands), spectrum for satellite and mobile to enable balanced growth for both the technologies by following global practice of ITU priority, affordable, and uniform right-of-way permissions by states and local bodies, facilitating deployment of small cells and aerial fiber.
Telecom towers (require 99.95 percent uptime) need to have electricity at industrial rates, and consumption of renewable (solar) energy through open-access route should allow aggregation of multiple tower sites.
The future would bring more challenges, but with the Airtel Spirit we are extremely confident on success of our journey.