In an exclusive conversation with Voice&Data, Ninad Desai, District Chair – BICSI India, talks about the current dynamics and challenges within the ICT Industry and How the Indian ICT ecosystem prepared to handle 5G and IoT. Excerpts:
Q. Please elaborate on the current dynamics and challenges within the ICT industry?
The ICT industry of today is no longer limited to data & voice and with its evolution from analogue to digital technology which has facilitated the conversion of voice, data and video to the digital form, these services are now being rendered through a unified network infrastructure on a single communication medium thereby bringing about a convergence in networks, services and devices.
The Challenge we see here is not just delivering the ICT infrastructure but adhering to the quality and performance of the ICT cabling infrastructure that’s has been delivered. We need to understand that an ICT cabling infrastructure lifespan with its technological advancements and product availabilities would easily outlive the front end applications by nearly fivefold, So if we don’t do it in the right manner now we may not be able to correct it later and would have to live with it “As Is” for decades.
An able and performing ICT infrastructure is that one thing that would provide the necessary juice to the organisation’s information and communications delivery platform. This will enable organisations of all backgrounds to allow active participation and innovation of the available information resources thereby allowing them to reap the benefits of higher productivity.
Q. There has been an unprecedented rate of change in technology and the ever-increasing demand for data and connectivity, on both national and regional basis. What are the actions needed if skills are to keep pace with the challenge?
Here’s the problem, in a nutshell. The job opportunities that are available today are for professionals who understand and can capably build the ICT infrastructure for the 21st-century. But the way most professionals perform these jobs are still stuck in the previous decade, What further makes this worse is the way our society is training and educating them is for the needs of yesterday and not for what’s required today & tomorrow.
It’s clear that skills education hasn’t kept pace with the ICT infrastructure advancement in the past decade. We still send our children through a fixed set of primary and secondary education steps which is further added to by a college degree which is a virtual prerequisite for the best jobs. This model doesn’t prepare quality skilled professionals especially as their skills are typically outdated by the time they finish their degree. Further what’s even more surprising is a fact that on-the-job training that’s seen happening in a select few areas of the industry isn’t enough to close the gap.
The recent World Economic Forum report in the US found that 63% of workers had participated in job-related training in the past 12 months. Yet employers are reporting the highest talent shortages since 2007, India does not have an elaborate survey of this kind in this area but the situation here sure is far worse than its seen documented in other developed countries.
Q. ICT infrastructure has been playing a significant role in overall development globally and there is a need to evolve to the next-generation networks. How is the Indian ICT ecosystem prepared to handle 5G and IoT?
5G is more than just an architecture: it also brings optimal performance requirements, such as huge throughput performance for advanced video services, below 1ms latency for services such as the real-time Internet of Things (IoT). This would result in 10-100 times higher throughput, 10 times lower latency, and 10-100 times more connected devices in 2020 than those today as on 2018. 5G will be a game changer not just because of its higher speed and better response capabilities but also because it would be responsible to enable new use cases not heard before and which would transform the ICT communications delivery platform such as Extreme mobile broadband (eMBB), Massive machine communication (MMC) & Critical machine communication (CMC) which will play a transforming role in several industry segments.
Getting upgraded on the actives and the front-end applications for 5G would not be such a great deal as it involves less time and primarily needs financial resources to make it happen. The radio systems are already 5G ready, the so-called processing units, baseband units, the brains of the system are 5G ready and are even ready and prepared for IoT software upgrade as well, but what’s the biggest challenge is addressing the weakest link….The ICT infrastructure
The industry players are tempted to cut corners due to the cut-throat competition, resulting in shoddy work thereby resulting in customer complaints and repeated operational challenges. To add to these Third-party technicians contracted by service providers (which seems to be the business norm today) are typically paid by the job, incentivizing them to cram as many visits into a day as possible and to top it all its even more difficult to have an extensive range of ICT cabling skillsets and a basic understanding of voice, data, video, audio available with one individual professional today thereby resulting in delay of work and shoddy installation practices added with multiple dependencies.
Q. To address the existence of a skills gap in the ICT industry, what are the key initiatives that have been taken by BICSI to address this gap and deficit of networking professionals?
Poor quality of ICT cables & components, non-standard installation practices and poor after installation service due to lack of planning can threaten the effectiveness of operations. ICT infrastructure designs must take full account of prevailing low voltage (Data, Voice, BAS, DAS, ESS, Audio-Visual etc) requirements which has a bearing on the organisations ICT systems including the types of Telecommunication spaces and their associated infrastructure (cable pathways, electrical power supply, cooling systems, fire stopping etc.). For this very reason, it is important that the organisations ICT infrastructure reflects its role in relation to both its communication delivery and network performance requirements.
In general, consultants who are endowed with a satisfactory level of ICT expertise, often lack expertise and knowledge of, and insight into the ICT systems infrastructure that needs to be specifically looked and applied in the preliminary phases of ICT construction design and integration which invariably creates a high probability that errors are made, and deficiencies arise in relation to the right delivery of the ICT needs to the business.
This issue has been addressed to some extent with the incorporation of requirements in the National Building Code 2016. A new chapter relating to structured use of Information and Telecommunication Enabled Buildings which details mandatory stipulations as a part of a code requirement ensuring that ICT infrastructure guidelines/design specifications are set out in the respective building design documents relating to construction and adhered to has been incorporated with active participation of BICSI and its volunteers in the building code incorporation process.
BICSI is further looking at addressing this Gap of skilled professionals through its established range of credential programs in ICT infrastructure design & installation to provide a level of assurance to the industry.
Q. What role does BICSI plays catalyzing the growth of the ICT industry and strengthening the professional ICT community?
BICSI has several ICT credential offerings in a designated area of information and communications technology (ICT) design and installation. These professional designations are valued globally and are recognized throughout the ICT industry. Candidates for BICSI credentials are required to show industry experience and pass rigorous exams based on the content of BICSI manuals. Those who pass must adhere to strict standards of conduct and keep their knowledge current through continuing education and recertification. These are in the design areas of ICT infrastructure, Data Centers & outside plant and also in the Project management area of ICT & telecom.
BICSI’s Cabling Installation Programs helps deliver highly competent cabling installers. This program provides a career path consisting of four progressive courses and credentialing exams, allowing students to begin with fundamentals and build upon that knowledge. Upon completion of training, program participants can conduct site surveys and install, terminate, and test copper and optical fibre cable to the highest level of specifications.
In a nutshell, BICSI provides information, education and knowledge assessment for individuals and companies in the ICT industry. BICSI serves nearly 23,000 ICT professionals, including designers, installers and technicians around the globe including India. These individuals provide the fundamental infrastructure for telecommunications, audio/video, life safety and automation systems. Through courses, conferences, publications and professional registration programs, BICSI assists ICT professionals in delivering critical products and services and offer opportunities for continual improvement and enhanced professional stature.