Indian telecom industry has started celebrating 2018 as the country has clocked 500 million Internet user base in 2017 as compared with 40 crore in 2016.
Top Indian telecom operators will start making more investment in networks in order to primarily enhance coverage of their mobile Internet footprint. Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel will be the front runners in network expansion focusing on their 4G networks across the country.
Vodafone and Idea Cellular are expected to exercise caution in broadband network expansion as the focus will be on integration and retaining their customers. This does not mean that Idea Cellular and Vodafone will slash Capex in the next 12 months.
Since both Aircel and Reliance Communications will struggle in the market place, focus of big three operators — Airtel, Vodafone-Idea and Reliance Jio — will be to grab the attention from customers of ailing telcos.
Though global telecom operators are waiting for 5G launch towards 2019 for making extra investments towards Capex, India will be one of the few countries to continue their focus on 4G LTE.
Both voice and data customers will face Quality of Services (QoS) related challenges because Indian telcos are yet to make investment in indoor coverage and adequate spectrum. Though Indian telcos celebrate achievements in speed tests, voice and videos quality issues will continue pop up in the next 2-3 years.
Demand from 126 crore plus Indian wireless consumers is not expected to generate any special attention from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for eliminating call drops. TRAI will finally give attention to 5G this year at a time when global telcos are framing their 5G plans.
Telcos will start investment in artificial intelligence (AI) technology to improve customer experience and enhance efficiency in their business areas. Investment in improving cost optimization, network efficiency, spectrum efficiency, network coverage, content, Cloud, virtualization and analytics will be gaining more attention this year as telecom operators are reeling under financial pressure.
Focus on fiber to enhance customer experience will be a major focus area for all mobile operators in the country. But fixed broadband will get less attention this year as well — showing telecom operators’ struggle in adding high ARPU customers.
Investment in IoT (Internet of Things) networks will not be a top priority for most telecom operators in 2018. Vodafone India will continue to its focus on IoT business revenues as part of enhancing its revenue from enterprise clients and reducing its reliance on voice and data business. Cloud-driven delivery as part of their enterprise business focus will become a top priority.
Telecom equipment makers
Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia will continue their interactions with Indian telecom operators for 5G trials and deals. ZTE is not on the radar for most telecom operators when they renew their present equipment deals.
Technology companies such as Cisco, Dell EMC, HPE, IBM, Oracle, Fujitsu, Juniper Networks, among others will struggle to continue their present business deals with telecom operators because of the pricing pressure. But Dell EMC and HPE have dominance among Indian telcos.
Reliance Jio will continue to dominate the Indian 4G space well ahead of Airtel and Idea-Vodafone combine. The dominance will continue because of the nation-wide presence of Reliance Jio that has invested nearly $25 billion. Airtel will try to enhance its 4G base with high ARPU in order to improve revenue. Content will play an active role in influencing the 4G customer addition.
Indian consumers – especially top cities and metros — will watch high quality TV content on the go as telcos will be making more investments in networks to support video. Indian telecom operators will continue to avoid rural India when they expand 4G footprint because small villages do not spend on smartphones and mobile Internet.
Apple and Samsung will continue their struggle in the Indian smartphone market thanks to the focus of China based phone makers such as Xiaomi, OPPO, Vivo and Gionee. Lenovo and Huawei will make more attempts to again attention from smartphone buyers. Intel, MediaTek and Qualcomm will make more efforts to speed up their devices in emerging telecom markets.