The promise of 5G: Defined by the balance between technology & connectivity
5G is an inevitability that will have to be adopted and implemented at scales that have not yet been imagined in our country. The promise of digital inclusion and universal Internet access has to beat the forefront of this new-age technological revolution that we are headed towards. With global data traffic trends being on the rise since even before the COVID-19 pandemic and with the world coming to a grinding halt and people forced to live indoors, consumption has shattered all previous ceilings. So where does this place us? As operators look at more efficient network roll-out and management systems, the backend is also being strengthened to support the new network architecture while also maintaining flexibility to upgrade to 5G as and when the spectrum is available. All this technology is backed by a deep fibre network which acts like a core to the whole eco-system fuelling connectivity. With Western countries far ahead of India in terms of fibre deployment, this presents a huge opportunity for the domestic market as most Indian operators are now beginning to create more fibre backed network systems and ultimately prepare for the 5G roll- out. On the other hand, developed Western markets are now in the process of network upgradation and fibre densification to aid the rise of next-gen 5G networks.
With the current Indian Government’s resolve to achieve a greater digital economy, technology and connectivity will both play a pivotal role if we are to get this balance right. 5G technology offers substantial flexibility in terms of resource planning and spectrum deployment for operators to manage their networks. More important than the immediate 5G rollout, is creating the right kind of network architecture for optimized network performance. The spectrum can only guarantee access to faster transmission speeds, however its the equipment and backbone of the network that delivers performance. With the advent of new software-based network platforms, network hardware can work efficiently across the spectrum delivering both 4G & 5G services with only a software change. Operators in India are increasingly looking at getting this mix right with a healthy blend of radio and fibre backed networks across operating circles. The higher the technology pyramid you go, the lesser is the margin of error in terms of getting the product mix right. That has to be kept in mind by not shortchanging the adequate hardware and software mix when future deployments or existing infrastructure upgrades are planned.
Once we get this balance right, there are endless opportunities that this technological marvel called 5G can deliver for a country like India. Our greatest strength lies in our talent pool and the growing start-up ecosystem that is driving the next phase of economic growth. Technology has already proven to be a game changer in bridging the digital divide in our country with affordable data plans and calling facilities, a standard for even the remotest parts of the country. Even during the pandemic, e-services have been at the forefront in the fight against the novel coronavirus, be it from early stage detection till providing a digital map of the containment zones in the country. All this coupled with the latest advancements in IoT, 5G as a technology has the potential to change lives and provide the necessary encouragement to an aspirational country like ours. e-Health, e-Education and e-Trade/e-Commerce will surely pave the way as we continue to step into the next phase of technology enabled human evolution.
Interestingly, as per recent ICRA estimates, the current fibre assets of major Indian telecom operators are about `1.2 trillion while the Indian OFC market is valued at over `65,200 million for the year 2019. Now with the renewed focus of Indian telcos on enhanced customer experience and augmented ARPU costs, the focus is right back at network development and fibre densification. New network hardware orders placed by operators will need some sort of fibre backed network to relay and support the amplifying hardware to work seamlessly. With fibre set to play a key role in the future of network architecture and mainstream 5G networks here in India, HFCL is already in line with the future demand and is set to deliver enhanced capacities when the opportunity arises. We have recently launched our green-field certified, truly next-gen optical fibre manufacturing facility in Hyderabad, which will cater to both the internal demand for manufacturing OFC and for market ready sale. HFCL’s strategic business units work seamlessly with network operators ensuring technological superiority and our products and services are in line with the current market trends.