As part of its TLF Dialogue, Voice&Data is organizing a 3-series webinar to celebrate 25 Years of Mobile Telephony in India. The third webinar series was: India & connected world 2025
This third part of the webinar series focused on the long-term future goals and deliberate on how the telecom sector, particularly the emerging new 5G technology, will drive social and economic transformation and help India become Aatmanirbhar.
The world’s digital connections are about to become broader and faster, providing a platform for every industry to boost productivity and innovation. With increase connectivity, these sectors such as mobility, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail will reap the harvest.
The future of the connected world is not just about the newest frontier technologies such as high-band 5G and low-earth orbit satellite constellations. Much of it will be defined by the expansion and evolution of existing advanced connectivity technologies, like fibre, low- to mid-band 5G, Wi-Fi 6, and various other long- and short-range solutions. The new architecture of connectivity also features cloud and edge computing that can be accessed with cheaper and more efficient “thin” devices. Computing power, storage, and sensors are all growing more powerful and more affordable.
As these trends converge, the connectivity ecosystem will be populated with more technologies, services, and providers than ever before. While consumer demand for entertainment and internet applications will continue to drive most network usage, connectivity will enable new capabilities across the economy.
The Voice&Data TLF Dialogue focus was:
A. How the industry will evolve in the next 25 years
B. What to expect from the 5G roll-out
C. How India can take the leadership role in the new digital era. (With Deep Tech led Telecom & its infrastructure, how India will make the most of it in shaping the leadership position)
The participants were Shyam Mardikar, President and Group CTO, Reliance Jio, Lt. Gen. Dr. SP Kochhar, DG, COAI, Manohar Raja, Executive Director, Enterprise Business, RailTel, Gautam Billa, Senior Director, Field Systems Engineering, Ciena, and Manish Sinha, CMO, STL. Pradeep Gupta, Chairman, CyberMedia Group, was the moderator.
Three big changes
Shyam Mardikar, Reliance Jio, said that one thing that we have learnt in the past six months is the relevance of the physical space. There is the relevance of physical space for work purposes. Now, that is reducing. Globally, suddenly, there is no relevance of the physical space. So, at least 70% of the employees are not at work. They are remote working. People and things are always connected. We are very close to achieving that, for connectivity.
Intelligence, as an eye, will become artificial and big. Two other eyes will come into play. One eye is clearly innovation. We will now have significantly larger amount of time for innovation. You are looking at the ecosystem, green initiatives, sustainability, devices that are getting on the digital divide, etc. Decision makers will now have the time to take initiatives and analyze all that. So, innovation is one eye, and initiative is the other eye.
Next, there will also be the platform way of working that is due to the network intelligence. Your day job will become clearly defined, granular and sharper. The action could be digital, physical, etc. The focus and sense of priority will get very distributed. This will grow bottoms up.
Gupta said that over the last 15 years, this platform approach has transformed India. We had the Aadhar, GST, UPI, etc., that transformed the way we interact with the government. What are the three big changes that you see coming in the next 10 years.
Manohar Raja added that from a digital India perspective the government has a wide and broad charter of how things wil be going forward. With this confluence of technologies, so many new things will happen. Eg., with 5G, it will disrupt many verticals. The network and the computing are growing. The Aatmanirbhar approach will be very significant. The government is stepping in and saying: how can we support Indian technology? For eg., for Indian railways, if you really want to transform that, almost 70% of the revenues goes into salaries. There are geographically-distributed assets that have to be managed. This is the case with railways all over the world.
With the confluence of technologies, almost everything will get changed and get smartened out. Everything can be smartened out, and they can function in a very different manner. The controlled management and the efficiency that these things can bring about can completely transform the way these things happen. I can see the potential in railways. There are other fields, as well, such as mining, oil and gas. Digital transformation will be on steroids.
In the last 30 years, the way we had interacted with technology is changing. In the next 10 years, the interface will be more between humans and technologies. The technology will become more pervasive. Because of the compute power and the speed of the network at the edge, we are going to see huge innovations. Each will enhance the other. That interface with technology will see dramatic transformation.
Gautam Billa, Ciena, noted that when we talk about the services sector, that is a broad range. Narrowing it down, in the next 10 years, the retail industry in India will transform. It is already $1300 trillion now. If we look at how much of this is retail and how much is online, it is about a 90:10 split. What we are about to see are the technologies, such as the cloud, connect and storage are coming together. Convergence of these things will drive retail in a way we have never seen before. The online and e-commerce market split is going to change drastically. This will get driven by the rising middle class in India. At the backend, there will be deep tech, AI, cloud, etc.
Second, there will be more collaboration. In the last six months, collaboration tools like Team, Zoom, Meet, etc., have sky rocketed. In the next 10 years, we will see a much more immersive, and two or three more versions of the collaborative experiences. There will be more technologies driven by AR/VR.
Third, on healthcare, this industry will see change, driven by deep tech. There will be things like remote diagnostics, imaging, accuracy of pathology, genomics, etc. That will drive a much bigger change. On a longer term, we will all come back to have some human touch to the various systems. We have to balance all that out. There will be phygital customer experience.
Lt. Gen. Dr. SP Kochhar, COAI, noted there are some statistics that are floating around. He presented some statistics. Worldwide, there are 5 billion people on mobiles. There is 70% annual growth rate. In India, 70 million 5G connections are predicted by 2025. 80% of the global population will be on the Internet by 2025. 80% traffic on the Internet is from TV or video. 60% of the digital workload will be on the cloud. One-third of subscribers will use VR by 2022, worldwide. There will be loss of $1 trillion by cybercrime. The infosphere is set to double by 20 billion smart optics on the Internet by 2021.
There will be an increasing competitive pressure on the core business of the telcos. These will dictate that they go on to become an ecosystem player, rather than a vertical player. Telcos will have to offer an only channel digital experience of 360 degrees services and offerings. It is customer and workforce centric. This is necessary to overcome the competition from the OTTs, etc. Telcos will have to also personalize offerings and tailored services.
Next, they will have to align service management with business outcomes. They have to streamline process, and creating the network agility will be very important. Third, there will be cognitive analytics platform for growth. That will create value-added services. Telcos will have to become data-driven, customer-centric, open, and innovative platform. They will have to become a business accelerator on the hybrid cloud. Telcos will have to manage business challenges due to an interconnected world. They will have to offer business differentiation.
From the technology side, 5G, AR/VR, AI/ML, assisted robotics, blockchain, and human-machine communications are becoming important. Next, IoT and Industry 4.0, followed by quantum computing and communications. Quantum sciences will enter communications.
Beyond 2030-35, we will see ML chips and cognitive robots emerging. Next, 6G will emerge between 2035-45. Jobs that will be created in cognitive space, cobots, etc. You will have robots that have feelings. Robots are being trained to have human values. We will have to learn how to work on digital highways. Jobs will have to be multi-tasked. People will have to learn many skills. They may have to work from home as consultants. There may be outcome-based engagement, as well. There will be a huge amount of work required to handle all of this.
Evolve and deploy
This cannot happen without a good hybrid cloud environment. People will also plug in from different parts of the country to some central work stream. 20-25% of the workforce will be from remote locations.
Next, Indian telcos and service providers will have a fairly large role to play. Our ability to actually manage will become extremely important for the world. The Indian players and the government have become lot more global now. Some of the next 50% of the connections that have to happen, Indian technology will be behind 20% of the activities. Third, is more of a hope. There will be mixed intelligence, cobots, happening. There is a clean AI being worked out by TensorFlow, etc. AI assisting humans, and humans assisting AI, will happen more. It will lead to new things in India, that we can’t imagine.
Gupta next asked the participants what will be one thing that will happen by 2045?
Shyam Mardikar, said that people will only move to meet friends and family. Everything else may be done autonomously. Manohar Raja said that deep technology will become ubiquitous. Gautam Billa said that it will be a mix of digital and human. Lt. Gen. Kochhar said we will see a movement towards ML chips, etc. Manish Sinha said that India will be second largest economy of the world, and the university of the world.
5G roll out
Lt. Gen. Dr. SP Kochhar, said that the telcos investment over last 20 years has been Rs. 11.24 lac crores. They have a debt liability of Rs. 8.4 lac crores. They require another Rs. 2 lac crores over the next 2-3 years. Internationally, the investment is going to be $60-70 billion for 5G. Now, 5G will generate $3.3 trillion direct, worldwide, by 2035, and $9 trillion by social value.
In India, we will have $1 trillion by 2025, and $60 billion by 2026 itself. Driving this will be 10,000 crore IoT devices. RPA market is expected to reach Rs. 13,000 crores by 2035, which again needs investment. AI will contribute 1.3% to India’s growth by 2035. In India again, FTTH is estimated to potentially generate revenue of Rs. 80,000 crores over the next five years.
These figures show that many industries will grow on telecom. Government has to look at telecom as a foundational sector, as a horizontal sector, and as an essential sector. Accordingly, they should put levies. Many countries have given lot of relief to telecom. It is a PPP.
Gupta next asked Manish Sinha about the challenges in the physical rollout of 5G. He said that it is essential that something happens. Governments are trying to be ahead of the curve. The COAI is trying to make it happen. 5G rollout needs several problems to be solved. We will need the implementation of the actual, physical networks. The RoW has to improve. Somewhere, the digital has to be converted to physical. That cannot happen without a rollout. Technologies such as robotics and drilling-based work are important. The need for a complex RoW will come down. A lot of work needs to be done.
Shyam Mardikar, Reliance Jio, said that 2G was clearly a demand-based rollout. India did not have mobile, and suddenly, there were mobile customers. In 3G and 4G, they were supply-led rollouts. We were trying to give customers newer capabilities.
5G again, has become a demand-led rollout. For the first time, telecom will venture out of its own horizontal nature to address ubiquitous verticals, cutting across the whole value chain, such as enterprises, machines, etc. 5G will become more ubiquitous. So, it will generate whole new set of demand.
There is relevance of spectrum. 5G is the most spectrum hungry. Our knowledge about the usage of spectrum is continuously getting sophisticated. Spectrum is getting open, technology agnostic, etc. Controllers are becoming programmable. The ability to use the same hertz to generate more bits is growing. The usage of spectrum is getting more sophisticated. WRC and the other bodies are looking at a unified way for distribution of spectrum. This is what is available, and this is what we are going to use.
What is the most cost-effective way ahead? The amount of infrastructure built needs to be managed. Interoperability of spectrum is getting bigger. Technology play will come in. Example, look at Wi-Fi 6 vs. 5G. RoW is not structured right now. It is a single largest challenge. We need to understand this, going forward. If you are talking about essential services, it should be on par with power and water. Still, there are hindrances that we, as an industry, are struggling with. We have to bring down the wall of RoW.
Gupta asked that standards are important. India has an edge in software. Is there a new possibility here?
Gautam Billa said there are two categories of standards. The first set is more traditional standards. A lot of times they have been used as an entry for startups and smaller players. New standards are much more open. There is a bigger opportunity for us to influence those standards. Lot of telcos are looking at open standards to deploy new services.
Regarding software, we need to see whether India can drive directly or indirectly. A lot of software development is being done in India. In the 5G standard, there is a demarcation between the control plane and the data plane. A lot of this could be influenced by the things that are being done in India.
Role of public sector
Manohar Raja replied that being Aatmanirbhar is not going to happen overnight. It is a long program. You need to work on it. We can learn some things from China. Wherever they are today, they started each one of those journeys at least 20 years ago. These programs are all long drawn and worked upon.
For the public sector, we need to raise the R&D spending. We need to go through the programs. We should play more role in standardization, as a nation. The future of technologies is pulled by different geographies and influential countries. In India, the government still does lot of procurements. There are so many other verticals.
Procuring smartly can be a way to take this program forward. You cannot create revolutionary things with an RFP. If you need government agendas for building technologies, we need to think very differently. We, as a nation, are very good in software. How can we build layers on top of that? We also need to relook at our programs. In the next 5-10 years, we need to build capabilities that offer differential values. We also need to create an IoT market. We need to create a strategy for the Indian players to be global players. What can we adapt? What are the gaps? We need to run this as a program. We need to understand and build a new charter. We have to look at alternate ways for procuring.
Gupta said that huge amount of transformation will take place in future because of deep tech. What will be the new business models? Will telecom stay as a pipe, or also play in these models?
Gupta asked Lt. Gen. Kochhar about the essential service for telecom, and what sort of governance will be required.
Lt. Gen. Dr. SP Kochhar said that telecom should become an essential service, it is more from the part of taxation. The government’s role should be as a facilitator. There are primary and secondary revenues. So far, the government has been looking at telecom as a generator of massive amount of primary revenue. Second, the revenue is coming from those industries that view telecom as a push multiplier. Government should now stop looking at telecom as a primary revenue source. Else, they will lose out on a lot of secondary revenue.
There is need to do a study regarding how the industries can run with telecom, and without telecom. Industries will get throttled. If we become a facilitator, and be having a strategic vision, that will be great. It will also help new industries to come up. Then, we can have a strategic India that the PM has been talking about.
Manish Sinha said that it is possible to reach a $5+ trillion economy. The world got connected. Think about 7-10 years. There has been big transformation. There are some challenges. There is need to have technology-related industries, such as agritech, foodtech, tech in travel, etc. All of these will contribute to growth. There are data sciences, as well.
Gupta said that how do we take local technologies abroad? Manohar Raja added that we have a role to play to lift ourselves as a nation. This is an opportunity for us. We need to invest in R&D. Developed economies have blue sky programs. Government procurement should also start happening in such a way. From the Indian railways’ perspective, we also took leap a for mobile train communications. We can set our own standard. There are software skills that Indians can provide.
India generates humungous demand. If you are able to supply all of that, we are more dependent on mobility. We can service everybody else.