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The year ahead!

As we usher in 2017, there is an underlying anxiety and uncertainty on what lies ahead.

On the international front, the industry is gearing up to transform the world with an ultra-fast, always-on 5G connectivity. We, in India, are struggling with the demonetization debacle. An industry, overweighed with a Rs 4.2-trillion debt, a free wireless voice revenue (which accounts for 65 percent of its pie), and one of the lowest data tariffs struggles to be a cashless economy in the backdrop of low Internet speeds, unenviable bandwidth availability, and poor Internet security.

It remains to be seen how the year will pan out as the Union Budget is announced on February 1, the GST Bill implemented, the auction of spectrum left unsold and 720 MHz band held, and 100,000 gram panchayats connected by March 2018, and subsequent 150,000 by September 2018.

The recent experience of the smartphone sector has not been very promising. While with demonetization sales plummeted, inventories piled up, workers were laid off or benched, and plants cut production, in the GST regime, if the 11.5 percent tax differential between imported mobile devices and indigenously made ones is not maintained, fresh investment in assembly plants will be called off and component manufacturing plans shelved. FDI, which went up from Rs 8850 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 54,400 crore already (slated at Rs 68,000 crore by March 2017), may also take a hit, with the Fed rate hike announced from January 2017 onward, when a large proportion of investment may head back to the US.

2017 is poised to be a year in which networking undergoes a fundamental transformation. It will increasingly move from being part of the infrastructure to being independent of it. IT managers will attempt to apply an appropriate level of control to ensure compliance and security, without impeding developer productivity. This will also lead to the rise of software-defined WAN, where open-source networking plays an increasing role in providing useful networking services. The pieces are in place to meet these challenges and we will see this transformation gather steam in 2017.

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