The Indian telecom sector has certainly seen some drastic disruptions in the last two years that will impact developments this year. The industry has consolidated down to a handful of players and there have been some serious headwinds in terms of the financial sustainability of the sector. Service providers are still working to see ROI from investments in 4G – and 5G is already knocking at the door.
While there have been attempts for a quick revival of the sector with service providers introducing tariff hikes to the tune of 30-40% and discussions about a waiver of penalties and interest charges on AGR dues to the government, the actual revival of the telecom sector will be a journey in 2020 and beyond. Indian service providers will take a measured approach on Capex- intensive investments required to drive new technologies.
This background in mind, the year 2020 will be critical year for telecom where service providers will look to address new opportunities to evolve and grow. Heightened user expectations for high-definition content, video and applications is driving explosive demands on the network in India. In fact, Indian smartphone users now download an average of a 8.5GB/month — or potentially more than 40 hours of video — off mobile networks without using Wi-Fi, according to Analysys Mason. The growth of Internet of Things (IoT), cloud-based services and 5G is only intensifying pressures being put on the networks. Let’s take a look at the trends we anticipate this year.
The Rise of ‘Edge AI’
Surging data consumption, especially from Internet of Things (IoT), has led to more complex networks. IoT is becoming increasingly critical in providing real-time data for various industries to assist in intelligent decision making, and IDC predicts that IoT devices will generate 79.4 ZB of data in 2025. In tandem, Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used by network operators to simplify network operations. This year, we will see the merging of IoT and AI. Known as ‘edge AI,’ this is the use of AI within IoT at end points such as sensors, devices, and connection points. For example, manufacturers will leverage IoT to understand the health of their machines in the production line and then use AI for predictive maintenance and to ensure less disruptions to the assembly line. With AI at the edge, meeting the rising demands of end-users today for IoT and other next generation services will be faster, more seamless and affordable.
Connectivity Will Propel Vertical Industries
The expansion of 4G networks beyond major cities and into rural areas in India will lead to better coverage and quality of services, resulting in more subscribers and data consumption. Reliable, fast connectivity enables business-critical tasks across important verticals to India’s economy. Farmers can use sensors to precisely monitor soil and weather conditions to boost yields and crop quality. Reliable connectivity will boost use cases in the manufacturing and education industries to drive the Digital India initiative.
Service Providers and OTT Players Will Collaborate More
Demand for digital content is reaching all new levels in India. From YouTube to Hotstar to online Shopping and Gaming, consumers today are relying on immersive experiences on their mobile devices and beyond at a breakneck speed. Networks today are all about content delivery especially at the edge where experiences occur – such as mobile devices being used for point-of-sale payments in rural parts of the country. As new use cases for content emerge, the goals and objectives of service providers and over-the-top (OTT) players will start to converge and perhaps drive new business models for the telecom industry.
Service providers will trailblaze new paths toward an increasingly connected and digital India in 2020. The industry is coming together in all aspects – technologies are converging, digital experiences are infiltrating verticals, and industry players are collaborating. With an adaptive network as the foundation for these changes, service providers can unlock all the opportunities they desire.
―Authored by Gautam Billa, Senior Director, Regional Field Systems Engineering, Ciena, CT Bureau