By Sanjeeb Kumar Sahoo
In an email interaction with Voice&Data, Rajesh Mishra, Co-Founder, President and CTO – Parallel Wireless elaborates about major challenges of providing coverage in a rural market, especially India.
Voice&Data: Tell us about your presence in the Indian market? What is your hiring and expansion plan for the Indian market?
Rajesh Mishra: India is a significant market for us, and we are engaged with several Government agencies and service providers here. We plan to increase our presence in the Indian market. We have offices in Pune and Bengaluru, and we are hiring aggressively to strengthen the team size in these offices. We have been doubling our team in India for the last few years, and I see that trend to continue for the next few years as well.
Voice&Data: How are requirements of rural subscribers different from those of an urban customer? What kind of content and services appeal to them?
Rajesh Mishra: We have helped service providers across the globe to expand services in the rural markets. We are engaged with 30 operators in six continents, and Ice Wireless and British Telecom are just a few service providers who have used our services for rural deployment.
Our experience is that there is hardly any difference in requirements of rural and urban subscribers. Initially, the rural population uses internet for social media, email, and video before moving on to other services like ehealth and ebanking. They also use the internet to access Government-led schemes and initiatives. However, the critical difference is in low paying capacity in the rural areas, so it is important for telcos to use technology innovatively to be able to offer cost-effective services to the rural population.
In India the digital divide is enormous. The combined rural wireless teledensity is just 56.3% in comparison to 169% in the urban India, according to TRAI figures at the end of August 2017. The Government wants to rectify this and to connect the unconnected is the vision behind Digital India. The telcos have to gear up to provide affordable connectivity in the hinterland.
Voice&Data: What are the challenges faced by telcos in the rural market?
Rajesh Mishra: The service providers are constrained by low population density and challenging terrain in the rural areas. Backhaul availability is another challenge faced by them. Further, low Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) means that the telcos find it tough to justify substantial initial investment in the rural areas. The return on investment is also spread over a very long period of time. The traditional capital-intensive network deployment model is not going to be of much help. Telcos need to explore new technologies and deployment strategy and to rethink their rural network deployment strategy.
Voice&Data: How do your products help the telcos in addressing the rural segment?
Rajesh Mishra: It is important to reduce the digital divide as it encourages economic growth and opens up new opportunities for everybody. Technology can empower the service providers in reducing the cost of network deployment and management. It is the high cost of deploying infrastructure and the operational cost of managing it that prevents telcos from expanding in the rural setup.
Our innovative solutions help them in addressing the problems associated with providing rural connectivity. Our Converged Wireless System integrates all the components for radio communications and has one of the lowest power consumption, and one base station can be deployed within three hours.
We recently added the 2G capability to our end-to-end network technology because we believe 2G is going to be relevant for a long time in the developing markets. GSMA says that 40% of the emerging markets will use 2G in 2020. The solution brings principles of virtualization to 2G to significantly bring down the cost and complexity of rolling out the network. It is perfectly suited for the rural market and also allows the service provider to move to 3G or 4G easily whenever the market is ready for it.
Our vRAN technology has a flexible backhaul capability that brings down the deployment cost by as much 80%. These technology innovations empower the telcos to cost-effectively provide services in the low-ARPU rural markets.