Indian telecommunications – 2020 and beyond

As millions of Indians stay home and maintain social distancing from their friends and family and colleagues, they increasingly turn to their mobile devices to socialize and work from home.
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Even the Government turned to the telecommunications sector to spread awareness as well as to trace and track infected persons in a bid to break the chain of transmission. Yet, the ongoing situation has had a profound impact on telecom service providers. As we emerge from this ongoing situation, this sector must focus on leveraging technology intelligently for future business security.

Long term business resiliency

The pandemic showed the world just how closely technology is linked to business security in the modern world. Of course, the telecom sector, like others rallied to implement business continuity plans quickly to ensure smooth operations.

But as they emerge from this situation, they must focus on long term resiliency strategies. This is particularly important since this current situation has demonstrated the vital role played by telecommunications in the country. From helping deliver awareness messages, to telemedicine and online classes, the telecom sector has a vital role to play in the country’s growth and development and it cannot afford to be disrupted by unprecedented events.

Explore new business models and drive innovation

As telcos reacted to minimize losses, they realized the potential of new business models. For example, prepaid call cards form a sizable chunk of a telecom provider’s business and most of these are sold and topped up at local shops.

When India locked down, all shops selling these cards were shut down even as demand for them skyrocketed. Telecoms quickly took the prepaid card business online. This was a new business format that ensured business continuity as well as customer satisfaction during times of unprecedented disruption.

With technology embedded at its foundation, the Indian telecom sector must also focus on driving innovation within the country. From fully self-service models to virtual mobile networks and the emergence of smart chat bots over voice services, the possibilities are endless. As we move ahead, telcos need to focus on identifying and monetizing new revenue streams and business models that will drive greater profitability for them and inclusive growth for the country.

Lead the drive for 5G

The number of mobile users in the country has seen a sharp upswing in recent years, coupled along with significant increase in data usage – from 20 million terabytes in 2017 to 55 million terabytes in 2019. The existing telecom infrastructure in the country cannot meet customer demand for high definition, low latency service.

As demand for technology fueled solutions across diverse sectors increase, mobile phones will play a crucial role in delivering tech enabled services to the furthest corners of the country. This can only be achieved with a 5G network and 5G enabled services. From smart cities and smart factories to smart education, smart healthcare, and smart banking, 5G holds the key to India’s smart future and now is the right time to push for the launch of 5G in India.

Monetize 4G infrastructure investments

Given the steady increase in demand for data services in the county, telecom operators have made significant investments in 4G LTE infrastructure. And even as they prepare for the launch of 5G, telecos must focus on monetizing their considerable 4G investments.

Indian mobile tariffs rank amongst the lowest in the world. While that is great for democratizing access, there needs to be some tariff rationalization if telcos are to thrive in this new digital economy. Innovative offers and smart usage based plans can go a long way in monetizing the 4G infrastructure.

Secure networks

With increasing dependence on technology, and an increasingly connected world, comes the risk of cyber-crime. Reports indicate that cyber crime went up by 37 percent in the first quarter of 2020. India is the second most cyber attacked country in the world and also one of the countries with the most data usage.

At this juncture, telecom operators must focus on strengthening their security infrastructure with the objective of embedding security into every layer. AI powered security platforms are also a great investment to consider as we move forward, especially as 5G services and 5G powered technologies become the norm.

Ensure last mile connectivity

India ranks amongst the biggest telecommunications markets in the world, driven by inexpensive plans and easy availability of smartphones. More importantly, telecommunications is one of the key drivers of India’s inclusive and sustainable development plans.

Yet, the digital divide has still not been fully bridged in the country. Around half of India’s population does not have an internet connection. Nearly 1.6 million students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds in India are at risk of falling behind their peers as they lack the means to access online education.

As we move ahead, private telecom players must work with the Government to bridge this chasm and bring every Indian into the digital fold. From building the necessary infrastructure to extending plans services for rural and remote regions, the Indian telecom sector has its work cut out, because only a connected India can be a truly developed and inclusive India.

Gaurav Agarwal, senior director – Enterprise Sales, VMware India