Connecting India

Future of mobility: connecting the next billion devices

The India Mobile Congress organized the second episode of the 25 Years of Mobility – Desh ki Digital Udaan – titled Future of Mobility: connecting the next billion devices.

Welcoming the audience, Lt. Gen. Dr. S.P. Kochhar, Director General, COAI, said that this year, COAI, Nokia and STL have all completed 25 years of existence in India. We have connected more than a billion people over the last 25 years. 5G is around the corner. The future of mobility is bright. The mobile phone itself has changed a lot. Today, we have a smartphone that has all the requirements that anyone can want. what is coming up. We are extending the coverage to the rural areas. There is going to be a cyber policy in the pipeline. These are fore-runners of what’s coming up.

Mega industry
Akhil Gupta, Vice-Chairman, Bharti Enterprises and Executive Chairman, Bharti Infratel, delivered the keynote address. He said that the telecom industry today is a mega industry. It has seen peaks of success and despairs of failures many times.  Two most noteworthy things are: it has been the most transformational industry that has really connected India. Two, it is, perhaps, the most value destructive, as well.

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In 1995, when the telecom industry was liberalized, it was a game changer. We have come to a state where you can get a connection instantly. In India, 1GB of data costs US 13 cents. This is one service that was unthinkable for the common man, but has achieved much more.

On the other side, there has been investment of $120-130 million. There has been mayhem of $40-50 million, and there have been job losses. The reasons are broadly two. One, it is regulatory. Every successive policy has suffered the maximum taxes. About 30% goes into taxes. Next, there are very high spectrum prices.

Third, there has been irrational introduction of telcos, and no cap on pricing. There has also been excessive litigation, as well. There is an AGR case in the court. The operators have blame to share. The industry had gone into uneconomic pricing.

The future is very bright, among all the industries. One common factor is the telecom network. Covid-19 has reinforced the belief in telecom networks. Without telecom, economies would have collapsed. There is growth in data services, data centers, IoT, etc.

He said: “This is an ever-evolving industry. We need to have capital investment. The government also has to walk the talk. They should look at yearly annual investments. There has to be some discipline in pricing. The regulator must step in. There is consultation regarding floor pricing. There is the right of way, as well. Work is going on in this area. Regular taxes also need to come down.

“We are going to play a second innings that will be even, more brighter, than the first 25 years. Capital formation can be the maximum in this industry. We should also move to network and infrastructure sharing. India should lead the world in telecom evolution.

5G to herald new era
In a special address, Nitin Bansal, MD India and Head of Network Solutions for Market Area South East Asia, Oceania and India, Ericsson said that with 5G, we are going to enter a new era. It will power Industry 4.0! Industrial digitalization is happening all across the world. We will find use cases in critical IoT, in India, as well.

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There are use cases such as smart cities, smart energy, self-driving cars, smart manufacturing, etc., that are just some. 5G-enabled digitalization revenues should be $17 billion by 2030. Industry 4.0 will enable new apps for 5G. Ericsson deployed NB-IoT sensors in Kanpur. We are using locally developed sensors. At the previous IMC, Ericsson had showcased 5G connected drones, etc. These are very apt for India.

In the food industry, approximately $750 billion is lost every year. We can prevent loss of food. Another example is: how can companies increase IoT deployment? Everything that is connected, will be connected. 5G should have 2.6 billion connections by 2025. The economic value of IoT will be about $11 trillion by 2025. 5G and IoT are predicted to reduce global emissions by 15% by 2030. A good productivity layer is the foundation for everything.

As you manage more and more data, security is getting more important. Security is key for the enterprises. With 5G, security is built-in from the start. It will serve as the critical infrastructure for everyone. Networks also need to be more resilient, secure, etc.

He added: “At Ericsson, we are building products on the 3GPP security and other standards. Companies should be ready to protect their businesses from the start.  Ericsson is also leading the way with a 5G connected factory in the USA. There is a product – the Ericsson IoT accelerator. The IoT platforms allow businesses build and scale their solutions.

“We are also able to utilize the spectral requirements. With the implementation of IoT solutions, the rise of 5G will only see an increase. There is potential of 5G to connect multiple devices across India.”

Connecting billion devices
There was a panel discussion featuring Dr. Badri Gomatam, CTO Telecom, STL, Jonathan Homa, Senior Director Solutions Marketing, Ribbon Communications, Randeep Raina, CTO, Nokia Networks, and Digvijay Sharma, Senior Director Sales, Ciena. Purushothaman KG, Partner and Telecom Sector Leader, KPMG India, was the moderator.

Opening the discussion, Purushothaman KG asked: how effectively are enterprise using the latest technologies and devices? AI itself will be $4.5 billion market. AR/VR is also emerging and can become around 3.5 billion devices by 2022. 5G as a technology is considered a game changer.

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Dr. Badri Gomatam, CTO Telecom, STL, said that the first part is the energetic drive to get connectivity up and running, and to get the software stacks in the market. We start with the idea that number of connected devices will increase. There is also the need for edge computing, and bringing it closer to analytics, at much lower latency, at a better cost profile.

Randeep Raina, CTO, Nokia Networks, said that there is certainly good update from the IoT products across the markets. They will play with 5G, as well as 4G. We are already seeing symptoms where IoT is playing with 4G, and in some areas, 5G. We will see holistic partnership models will evolve.

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It would need lot of interlocking between the regulators and the operators. The next game plan should be transformation. There will be amalgamation of connected devices and smart networks. With 5G, there will also be highly improved latencies. Industries of the future will need the desired goals to be met.

Jonathan Homa, Senior Director Solutions Marketing, Ribbon Communications, added that as part of the 5G solution launch they are conducting next month, there will also be changes in gaming. Users have increased their gaming from 3-1/2 hours to 4-1/2 hours during Covid-19. We are also looking at remote surgery. Users may be willing to pay more better service.

AR/VR, robotics, image processing, etc., are all based in the cloud. People will now need better connectivity to those apps. There will be need to take a common infrastructure, and create the different strata for the networks. There will also be more devices on the edge.

Use cases from an Indian perspective
To a question about the use cases from an Indian perspective, Digvijay Sharma, Senior Director Sales, Ciena, said that with IoT and sensors, lot of power cuts are being managed. There is a lot of optimization going on. Efficiencies are increasing everywhere.

With 4G, IoT was already happening. There are some industrial use cases coming up, such as robotic arms. You can move the robotic arms, wirelessly, via 5G. Smart cities are another area. Smart cameras are also capturing people, as well as heat sensors. Most of the things that were physical are becoming digital.

Next, Purushothaman KG asked the various panelists to explain the working on the infrastructure side for smart cities.

Dr. Badri Gomatam, STL, said that the number of small cells and towers will increase. These will be backed up by a robust fiber infrastructure. We need to get this aspect right. As we move closer to the customer, we also need robust power, whether it is from a pico cell or a femto cell, etc. The context of the infrastructure needs should be addressed. The network ecosystem will also undergo a huge change.

Randeep Raina, Nokia, added that network automation is coming into the picture. You are getting into an era where the network now has to be sliced. You need productivity and efficiency gains. We have an experience of connecting a million people. However, it is a different ball game when you have to connect devices.

There is a need to have service orchestration, touchless, etc. You will also have varied, different apps, that vary across the industries. Digital services and service automation should be on top. The service orchestration should be managed end-to-end. There should be proper system integration of the devices.

Jonathan Homa, Ribbon, said that security and vulnerability of the network and devices should be managed. We are getting into advanced orchestration. There should be different stratification, as well. There are new avenues that are also opening up. Within the network itself, there should be exercising of control.

It is very important that the slices do not impinge on each other. Ribbon has looked at two slicing technologies — hard and soft. They are also looking at combining these two. Specific Ethernets and optical channels are dedicated to handle them.

Purushothaman KG next posed the question regarding the role of cloudification of networks and the role that the architecture will play.

Dr. Badri Gomatam, STL said that enterprises don’t need to have their setups in their offices any more. The cloud has various aspects. In IoT, there are large number of users coming in. We need to see how faster you can reach the cloud.

There are different latencies required for robotics, gaming, etc. Cloud will have benefits. It will also be moving from the core to the edge. The key role of cloud is changing. Virtualization is also a key aspect. The architecture of the cloud will also change. Capacities of the public clouds are amazing. As and when, the resources are provided, when requested. Cloud will also move to the edge.

Information overload and intelligence
Purushothaman KG next checked as to how do they see the information overload being managed? What kind of intelligence will be derived?

Dr. Badri Gomatam said that the first part is, it is moving to the edge of the network, towards the customer. We need to also make useful decisions. We need to have inference at the edge. You are having hardware acceleration at the edge.

Algorithms are also getting more efficient. These two things will create a solution framework. Factory automation, business forecasting, etc., will also come to the fore.

Purushothaman KG added that ML is also becoming the new normal. How is network experience getting enhanced? What is the role in servicing customers?

Randeep Raina said: “We are keeping pace with AI/ML. We are looking at the perceived values, especially, with the advent of 5G. Customers have an interest, and so have the service providers. Data can be used to address the customers’ needs. Networks have to be vertically split, as well. AI/ML will also get embedded in the hardware, besides the software. This can translate into much more productivity and efficiency.”

Jonathan Homa noted that ML and analytics can be applied to the network itself. It can also be applied to the consumers. “One of the power of analytics will be in the hands of telcos. They can make changes behind the scenes in order to provide better user experiences. We will see more and more being done by analytics.”

Digvijay Sharma said: “You have to meet the customer requirements. Ciena has fiber resiliency. In India, there are infrastructure issues. Ciena can provide resiliency to the networks. We are able to provide higher capacities. We are also doing cost effective 100G solutions for customers. We are developing fiber cut and failure resources to cover problems in fiber. Solutions are going to define the existing and future services. New technologies, such as AI/ML are also helping.”

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