9th Saarc CEO Conclave Concluded Successfully

VoicenData Bureau
New Update





At the 9th Saarc CEO Conclave 2010 held at New Delhi, Pradeep Gupta, CMD, CyberMedia India opened the first day of the conference, with an address that focused on the importance of bigger collaboration needed at the Saarc level, as data is going to result in a lot of interaction. He also mentioned that how this was in line with the focus of this 2 day yearly event, which is meant to foster regional brotherhood on a platform for exchange of ideas on various facets of the telecom industry in the Saarc region.


Taking off on that note, the chief guest for the event, Dr J S Sarma, chairman, Trai elaborated on the significance, potential, and opportunities of data growth, recognizing the fact that the Saarc region not only accounts for a significant section of the population, but will also be the engine of growth in the next few years. To fully exploit this, we need to use all the resources at hand, like a young population which absorbs technology like a sponge, as well as other advantages like having achieved rapid strides in telecom; in terms of voice communication. However, he said that now we need to go to the next level, which is the data and according to Cisco, will have a CAGR of 39 times in the next 5 years. He also mentioned that 3G will soon give way to 4G, as 3G won't be sufficient for our data needs. “4G will be more software based, so migration to 4G won't be so capital intensive. This would bring 4G and LTE much closer to us than what we anticipate,” he said. Talking about the national broadband plan, Dr Sarma said, “We are looking at not only a national broadband network, but a fiber optic network across the country, wherein every village and panchayat, and every habitation over 500, would have an optic fiber network reaching their place, because we believe that by 2020, the demand would be such that you need to take recourse to the digital medium for many activities.” Other key elements of his address was the rise in video, the urban-rural divide which needs to be redressed by pulling up rural areas, to make India the largest economy in the next 3 years, and how the responsibility to bring the benefits of telecom and broadband lie on the shoulders of leaders of the telecom ecosystem. This can be achieved through proper networks, backhaul, applications, and more importantly a kind of culture where people can use data for their benefit. While regulatory issues like quality of service, bandwidth delivery, pricing, content for broadband and licensing for delivery of broadband will be present, how we regulate the people responsible for propagating the data, and planning for security of information will be more important.

Speaking about the need for spectral efficiency, Dr Sarma said, “We need to look at the spectrum in a much bigger way, and must make use of the digital dividend, spectrum in other areas, and increase our spectral efficiency to liberate spectrum. We also need to find alternative means to cater to the needs apart from using spectrum, besides find other sources of spectrum, and reforming it, which we are likely to start in 2011.”


Key note speaker Rohan Samarajiva, chair, LIRNEasia, Sri Lanka then spoke on how to achieve the same amount of success in data, as we have in voice. Discussing some of the challenges in the Saarc region on this front, he said, “In the Saarc regions, there are very low subscriptions for data, and Internet penetration is also very low, coupled with screen limitations, fancy handsets, lack of a spectrum roadmap, and lack of applications that people want to use. Technology will take care of itself if the spectrum and handsets are available. Literacy is not the only question, affordability and pricing are also issues.”

Addressing another key issue, the mobile security, Sanjay Kalra, Juniper said, “Smartphones are on the rise, as are applications, but with it also increases the threats for security. However, operators can use this as an opportunity or as a threat.” With a $2.5 bn market for security, growing at 55% for smartphone security, data leakage is also an issue, but there are solutions on the enterprise-as-a-service platform, that can be incorporated to combat this. Talking about the need to reduce energy consumption, by using energy efficient data centers to counter the data tsunami caused by new technologies, Manish Gokhale , APC said, “Internet commerce transactions are set to touch 800 bn per year and solutions for the past, are not sufficient for the future.


Thus, we need solutions which are efficient, low cost and energy saving. The more you save on cost, more cost effective services you can offer.” Sandeep Girhotra, NSN, then explained further how data in isolation is not the growth wave, but data in co-ordination with other factors like the need to individualize and contextualize the customer experience. “Simplicity, network and service quality, cost and billing control, total operational efficiency and overall hygiene, new revenue streams from existing services, enhancing customer experience, making data relevant and identifying customer needs, is what will help to monetize applications and add to the value of the customer, simultaneously.”

Following this, the first panel discussion, on the theme 'Tech to boost data growth and meet customer needs', focused on how Saarc has great potential for data growth, despite its limited infrastructure, and how subscriber numbers were needed for growth in 3G, which would only come with the reduction in data pricing, and would be more significant than technology, volume, availability, pricing and applications, delivery and network. The discussion also concluded that the operators must enhance optimization of network and provide enough bandwidth to be successful, including backhaul and offloading traffic.


Going further, Nick Jensen, CEO, Dialogic spoke about the potential of video in monetizing the mobile broadband network, and how India had an advantage of a less restrictive market-more open to sharing information, which gives it more potential for growth, coupled with its high innovation. “You have to go with a transaction based model, and use bandwidth that is available, making the most of it. Competition creates innovation, which is good.” He also mentioned how smartphones are going to drive growth in India, and concessions for 3G should be considered to drive the smartphones' costs down. Talking about broadband for all, Dinesh Chand Shrama, Ericsson, said, “In the next few years, all technologies will co-exist and take us closer to LTE. However, the key success in rural areas, is to be affordable, as well as have customized applications in place.”

Speaking about the telecom growth in rural Nepal, Anand Raj Khanal, director and secretary, Nepal Telecom Authority said that subsidized and value added licensing for operators, especially in rural operators, and government intervention has helped telecom growth in Nepal. “Spectrum was given without any cost, with no royalty to the government, and instead heavy investment was made by the government to aid the rural operators. This has today resulted in GSM services even in remote areas. Besides, 3G spectrum was also given at a low cost to the rural operators in Nepal, which led to an unbelievable growth in voice and data.”


The second panel discussion was a debate on finding a balance between national security and commercial obligations. With participants voicing their opinions on the need for a level playing field, customer verification for connections by operators apart from their commercial obligations, government's need for consultation on data encryption and security against data leakage, different licenses for operators and service providers, and a need for greater security systems for equipment and network, it was concluded that a centralized monitoring system-by the government, as well as by operators-would help to build a security ecosystem.

The second day began with a breakfast discussion on 'Delivering security as a service'. The keynote speaker Akhil Gupta, MD, Bharti Enterprises spoke on the complexities and similarities of the Saarc region, in terms of the challenges and solutions to take data growth forward. Tracing the telecom growth story in India, Gupta highlighted the fact that beyond the success of size and the number of subscribers, the real success story for Saarc is challenging the mindsets of several telecom technologies, like mobile telephony, postpaid vs prepaid, high ARPUs as a measure of success. “Some of the common factors in the Saarc region are low income, mobile telephony, virtually no fixedline and no subsidies on handsets in any of the Saarc nations, much lower real telecom penetration than numbers reported, very low Internet penetration, and low banking facilities-all providing scope for mobile operators in this regard, especially for data growth.” He also mentioned that 3G and BWA is the way forward, and unlike India, other Saarc regions should start with a reasonable license fee for 3G, and a common roaming rate between all these nations, which would also be very helpful. “The need to start offering 3G HSPA handsets, as well as the need to balance affordability for the masses with economic health for the operators and other parts of the industry, is also something that needs to be looked into. Lastly, I feel that wireless broadband is the only way to plug the digital divide in this region.”


Kuldip Singh, CMD, MTNL spoke about the potential of data as a revenue stream, and said that going forward, we need network, content, and devices for data to be a success . “Demand for bandwidth will be driven by the applications. Spectrum is limited in wireless, so wireline will also be popular. Fixedline broadband is growing steadily, and expected to reach 42% growth in the developing countries in the next few years. MTNL plans to start WiMax in the coming year, which will also contribute to data growth.”

Speaking about the immense benefits of green technologies in the ICT sector, Srikanta K Panigrahi, advisor to the PM on climate change said, “Operators need to focus on renewable energy sources like carbon credits, which can be sold through small and large projects. This will help us to increase our share in the global market for carbon credits, as India's ICT industry contributes significantly to the global carbon emissions.”

Ilyas Ahmad, chief executive, Maldives Communication Authority, then spoke about how Maldives has achieved 150% penetration and grown 3 times in the last 5 years-a success story that can be attributed to a combination of technology, the user's needs, and presence of good applications for offering broadband or data services, coupled with the 4 variables of licenses, technology to deploy these services, devices, and applications. “3G services were given away as part of standard mobile license, no extra charge was levied, and this has helped in good services throughout the country, even in areas which are not so economically viable,” he said. Further, he agreed with Gupta's statement that a common roaming tariff is an opportunity that could be used to enhance data services, as data roaming is a lot more expensive that voice roaming. He concluded that a level playing field and effective regulatory conditions to drive growth, was needed.

Shedding some light on how a few new technologies are changing an individual's life and the massive technological advancement in the last 5 years, Deepinder Bedi, ED, Tulip Telecom said, “Operators need to build up their networks for future data and device growth that will be connecting to the network. Looking at options outside of spectrum like Wi-Fi is an opportunity, as is the cloud and growth in video technology.” Sethumadhavan Srinivasan, director, marketing, Huawei followed up the last remarks, by stating the importance of building a delivery model around a user experience. Some of the factors he mentioned were user behaviour and experience, and how this is driving the trend towards the cloud based model; how ISPs collaborate with the telecom operators; how telcos move up the value chain beyond traditional bit pipe providers, and how they can collaborate and compete to win, and build an architecture based on services that satisfy's the end user's needs.


The panel discussion on 'Creating a strong regulatory regime to bridge the digital divide' covered important thoughts on how the digital divide is between voice and data, and not rural and urban, and what is ailing it, be it the distributed regulatory framework, voice centric licenses, one-size-fits-all regulations, absence of wholesale pricing, underutilized and mismanaged spectrum, vested interest in government intervention, like in the case of 3G, disallowing operator's expansion, and more. It was concluded that the independence of the regulator in terms of licensing, neutralizing the USO fund and strong commitment from the government, is necessary in bridging the digital divide.



Yogesh Bijlani, Telenity then spoke about the evolution of 4G, wherein device affordability has a very critical role to play in 3G and 4G adoption, which provides high-end content on a cheaper handset. “3G is no longer just an enabling technology, but opens up new price models and gives Internet on the move to millions of subscribers. Voice will be the dominant application, but a lot of other multimedia services which are then enabled, and 3G or 4G wireless evolution will address the needs of this large consuming young subscriber base that exists all over the country.”

The final panel discussion on emerging enterprise mobility threw light on how the personalized application has replaced the regular application, how there is a divide between the hype for apps stores and app development on one side and Indian companies outsourcing app developers in order to monetize their apps on the other hand, even with so many local content developers, the pricing dilemma, and how to survive independently, without the aid of operators. Another aspect is the revenue sharing with the operators that needs to be transparent in preparation for the upcoming surge in apps with 3G, as well as a need to be able to access data on the go, as most apps today has a consumer focus, and not an enterprise focus. The CEO Conclave 2010 saw quality panel discussions and interactions. Hope to see you all in 2011!

Beryl M