Exhibitions India Group and 28th Convergence India expo hosted an invigorating round of discussions at a webinar on 5G Network: Where will India stand in Post COVID-19 World to build a Digital Society.
Moderated by Bharat Bhargava, Partner (TMT Advisory) and Leader Telecom Performance Improvement, EY, the e-conference discussed the state of telecom infrastructure in the country, and how the pandemic has created a new opportunity for the industry to reshape and reunite in order to thrive. “Significant rise in traffic has been noted over the last few months, in terms of operator networks. This can be attributed to the increase in video conferencing calls, voice calls, prolonged use of OTT services as we all stay at home. Data usage has risen 10-15 GB/user/month, while voice calls have gone up to 960 minutes/user/month. It does beg the question as to whether we need more heterogeneous networks, and do we need more technologies like 5G.”
Shining a light on what the industry needs, S.K. Gupta, Secretary, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) elaborated, “Readiness of support infrastructure is an important issue. Currently only 25% of fiberized infrastructure is available, and a lot more is required to avail the advantages of 5G. We need more IT providers to focus on fiberization, as well as need a structured strategy on the utilisation of this infrastructure. Things in India are ready for 5G networks, and in order to be successful, app developers, system integrators and operators will have to work in tandem. It’s likely that initially, 5G will be more of an overlay in India, than an overall network.”
Noting the evolution of the Indian ICT ecosystem, Pamela Kumar, Director General, Telecommunications Standards Development Society, India made a spirited argument on how a shift in attitudes will go a long way for the Indian market. “We need to be at the forefront of new technologies in India, and not just depend on external factors. In order to capitalize on the currently available opportunities, fundamental changes will have to be made. Instead of being an adopter of matured, proven technologies, we must refocus to emphasize on use cases, demonstrations of technology, proof of concepts, trials and standards.
Observing the effects of the COVID-19 on the industry, P. Balaji, Chief Regulatory & Corporate Affairs Officer, Vodafone Idea Limited said, “The pandemic made things move very fast for us. Whether it’s home offices, OTT or e-commerce, there are huge changes in the coming. These paradigm shift happened very quickly as work and education went completely digital. As an operator, Vodafone has made huge investments in 5G- one of the largest globally. Telecom networks must become highways of the future in order to drive socio-economic progress.”
Emphasising on the need for the industry to evolve, Rajesh Gangadhar, CTO, Access Solutions and 5G, STL – STL – Sterlite Technologies Limited said, “Bandwidth requirements have increased, as everyone is huddled together at home, and offices and schools happening from there. SLAs for OTT apps, and tools such as video conferencing required rethinking on how new networks are to be built. Millions of people are still not digitally connected, and rely on wireless connections. It’s critical for operators and vendors to shift from just a transactional approach, and collaborate with each other to develop a heterogenous mix of technologies for a better future.”
Social distancing was made somewhat easier with technology, and connectivity is now globally seen as a necessity such as water or electricity; explained Paritosh Prajapati, Founder & CEO, GX Group. “Digital society made it possible for people during lockdowns to connect to work, have access to education, and the best part of it is it that it’s up to us to control these tools. Digitisation has also made digital entrepreneurship possible today, as the amount of investment required is lower. E-commerce growth is one of the highest in India, and we have incurred 50% annual growth in data. But bandwidth is a limitation, and 4G will not be suffice, as standards of bandwidth are increasing. We are going to evolve from a digital society to a bandwidth society.”
Sandeep Sehgal, Head Enterprise Business, Nokia Enterprise “Nokia has very much been on ground, making sure of the good health of our networks, as well as the well-being of our engineers. Our leadership convenes twice a week to ensure that we continue to deliver quality service to our customers. We can view this crisis as a glass half-full scenario; an opportunity on how we can grow and thrive. Moving forward from the pandemic things are bound to change. Industry 4.0, for instance will see great areas for operators to deliver much more services in the four fields of ports, airports, mining and manufacturing.”