Murtaza Bhatia

“The 5G to 6G shift will happen in steps”

As per NTT’s 2020 Global Managed Services Report, organizations indicated that MSPs will provide maximum value during the next 3-5 years through their security capabilities (44%), financial stability, trust and reputation (43%), and automation (43%). Murtaza Bhatia, National Manager – Vertical Solutions, NTT Ltd. India, in interaction with Pratima Harigunani gives a quick peek into what transpires as the global behemoth undergoes a big internal redesign. He also points out the state of cloud, low-power innovations, photonics, industry collaboration, and 5G from a practical and poised lens.

A lot of internal transformation has been happening at NTT recently. What opportunities and challenges emerge as things reshuffle in such a big way?

We are a company with a 150+years’ heritage, present in over 80 regions and countries with over 190 network coverage regions. After 2019, a large consolidation drive began between group companies. We are combining forces and galvanising strengths across the spectrum. We are offering digital transformation, customer experience, omnichannel connectivity, intelligent workplaces – everything.

Earlier, every company within the group had a different play in the IT space. Now, combined in a new way, they have an end-to-end advantage. With NTT and NTT Data, there is nothing in the ICT landscape that we cannot handle. Our joint GTM advantage is now bigger and better.

With about USD 3.6 billion in R&D, you clearly have a big focus on the future. Can you share more on the exciting work that is on its way?

We are enabling the future for our clients. That is what our R&D does. We focus on digital transformation, flexibility, and outcome-based services. To bring about and deploy the 5G service, we have expanded initiatives in the DOCOMO 5G Open Partner Program aimed at creating new usage scenarios with a broad range of partners. Also, in our 5G field tests we are advancing initiatives aimed at realizing 5G usage in a broad range of environments, and achievements include becoming the first in the world to successfully realize a data transfer speed of 27Gbps to mobile terminals, exceeding the 20Gbps required by 5G.

With large capacity optical networks expected to evolve further to facilitate the widespread use of IoT and 5G services, we are newly developing our own digital signal processing and ultra-broadband optical device technologies, and we have become the first in the world to successfully test the long-distance transmission of a wavelength division multiplexed optical signal.

We also successfully used two technologies for the wireless transmission of volumes that were about 100 times greater than LTE or Wi-Fi and five times greater than 5G. In addition to these, we are advancing cutting-edge research, such as the joint development with a university of an ultra-high-speed integrated circuit that enables wireless transmission.

Do you think the world will hop from 5G to 6G quick and easy?

The 5G platforms are already ready as per NTT’s roadmap. The research in 6G areas and applicability is going on. In India, it will take a year or more with 5G because of diversity and service providers. The 5G to 6G shift will happen in steps. Currently, 5G is enough for use-cases and business requirements. The business models based on 6G will still take some time.

Can you yell something about IOWN – Innovative Optical and Wireless Network (IOWN) – in the context of the current optical fibre revolution?

It is of great importance. It is the backbone of the entire revolution. IOWN will help a lot of interconnects and also revamp with an under-sea cable which is of great significance.

NTT R&D is envisaging the arrival of new smart societies that are not yet possible with today’s internet, with features such as mobility as a service (MaaS) for extreme fail-safe systems and entertainment services offering deep immersion. To realize such smart societies, we will require innovation that cannot be achieved merely by extending the trajectory of current technologies; we will need to realize ultra-low power consumption, high-speed signal processing, and the fusion of virtual worlds that can equal or surpass reality with sophisticated prediction technologies. NTT Group has proposed the IOWN concept to realize new smart societies, and we are making a committed effort to realize this concept.

IOWN comprises three main technology components: an “all-photonics network” that uses optical processing on not only networks but also device processing; “digital twin computing” that enables high-speed, real-time interaction between things and people in cyberspace; and “cognitive foundation”, in which these and various other ICT resources are efficiently managed. NTT Group aims to solve social issues by aiding the shift from electronics into the world of photonics.

How much has your strategy been affected due to competition from new-breed players – especially the tech giants?

I see it not as competition but co-existence. Not everyone can go on the cloud and not everyone can stay on-premise. It has to evolve to a hybrid shape. It is about how workloads can be actually made to run better – that’s a good SI’s work. What if an enterprise’s workloads are at all types of clouds. Some footprint goes to co-location and some go to Edge. Everything boils down to the best and efficient-workload management; neither underperformance nor over-performance. That’s our play.

When it comes to the cloud, we provide enablement services from legacy to private and public cloud. We take care of what goes where and strengthen the set-up. The intelligent security piece is also a good one in this space.

Would the NEC-NTT equation trickle into India?

Yes, it does. Depending on business alignment, it reflects in almost all countries. But right now nothing country-specific can be said. The alignment is going on.

What kind of sustainability goals are in progress and how do they align with innovation directions in 5G, 6G, Edge, and optics?

NTT Group announced in September 2016 its endorsement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our group companies have identified the correlations between their businesses and the 17 goals of the SDGs, and are making efforts toward their achievement.

As Moore’s law approaches its limit in electronic circuits, there are expectations for a new, high-speed, energy-saving computing platform that incorporates optical technology. Achieving this requires technologies that have hitherto been considered difficult to achieve with low energy consumption, such as optoelectronic signal conversion and high-speed signal processing in the optical area. NTT has been developing a semiconductor nanostructure called photonic crystals with which to realize various tiny optical devices.

In this work, we used our nanotechnology to realize a nano electro-optic modulator (E-O converter) and a nano photodetector (O-E converter) with extremely small capacitance and low energy consumption. Moreover, through their integration, we also realized an O-E-O conversion optical transistor. These nano-optical technologies have opened the way to realizing high-speed, low-energy integrated, optoelectronic information processing.

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