Progress of 5G is taking longer because we're missing a scalable use case

Right now, the industry and ecosystem seem to be focused on latency, bandwidth, density-related use cases and applicatons.

Ayushi Singh
New Update
Swapnil Shah Vice President for 5G Business Unit Comviva

2022 was a momentous year for the Indian telecom industry as the idea of 5G became a reality. Leading telecom players have already nearly finished roll out of 5G services across India and are expected to cover most parts of the country by the end of this year. Swapnil Shah, Vice President for 5G Business Unit, Comviva, spoke to VoicenData on the 5G ecosystem in India, implementation of 5g technology, growth and expansion so far and much more. Here are some excerpts from the interview:


V&D: Do you feel India has created or is creating an acceptable 5g ecosystem to enable the effective and efficient implementation of 5g technology?

Swapnil Shah: India is at the forefront of the digital curve that’s evolving across vertical industries. 5G is being consumed as a key enabler for the same; be it initiatives around MAKE IN INDIA or ATMANIRBHAR BHARAT or movement around chips ecosystem and the related supply chain or the PLI scheme or even the refreshed policies around spectrum availability and allocation or its capability and capacity-driven programs like VEPP and DCIS scheme; all of this is a strong collective measure of the said ecosystem. The government's support, like the DCIS scheme and VEPP for example, is encouraging the startups and established organizations along with community bodies to leverage 5G so that the enterprises and consumer use cases can be addressed, not just functionally but at scale bringing industries, networks, application communities, and hyper scalers on the same page to create an end-to-end ecosystem to create tangible value for themselves, customers, and India Inc.

One thing which India Inc. can bolster is by encouraging more open networks and scalable use cases with democratized access and service consumption. Today we hear a lot of stories about a successful use case or a successful trial here and there or a lot of new 5G radios being rolled out, but we still don't have a democratized scalable use case for mass adoption which can really drive the top line for B2B, B2C and B2B2X. I think that is exactly where a lot of work still needs to happen, and the ecosystem of startups, industry bodies, large organizations, industry verticals, hyper scalers, and application communities need to come together to make that happen, and the government continues to be in an excellent position to continue the momentum on getting this around together.


V&D: What in your view should be the spectrum strategy for creating the private 5G network? What has been Comviva’s contribution to that front?

Swapnil Shah: As an organization, we’re focused on solving customer problems through a product approach and solution mindset. We have been following the refreshed spectrum policy very closely, especially the movement around captive and private networks. At Comviva, we fundamentally believe in private 5G networks, captive and non-captive; primarily because they are meant to solve a lot of tangible problems for the devices and applications of the industry verticals, more importantly, because they can open new possibilities on revenue stream; the B2B2X.

Adoption of a private network could be SNPN-based or PNI-NPN based, however the democratized platform for either, must abstract the underlying network complexity to allow the applications and devices in the said network to consume, control, and configure the intents of the endpoints.


That’s the precise product fulfillment approach that Comviva is focusing on, with a top-down view on creating a horizontal platform for private 5G, powered by use case, driven by abstracted data currencies from underlying infra and network. This allows the industries to subscribe to various network assets in a secure yet democratized way which has a direct impact on OPEX optimization.

V&D: What is Comviva’s target in the 5G-enabled business applications market over the next 5 years?

Swapnil Shah: We have strongly believed and have been vocal about the fact that the only way service providers can get an orbit kick on ARPU and ARPA is by giving the control back to the custodians.


This ties up with the fact that the applications being used by the consumers (on smartphones or any connected device), or the applications being used by the devices of the industries (cars, drones, glasses, etc) - need to be made smarter so that they can access, control and configure the network to give personalized experience with harmonized access.

Comviva has consistently believed that the application developer community is the heart of creating the next S-curve in the 5G industry.

Comviva is targeting 10% of the $2 billion addressable 5G-enabled business application market across the world over the next five years. Telcos are themselves looking at increasing their enterprise revenues from 6-7 percent to 40-50 percent of the total in three to four years through 5G-enabled solutions, which makes us an ideal partner to the service providers.


V&D: 5G requires a greater focus on security and protection from threats. Given the enhanced features of 5G, it is also expected that several security-related vulnerabilities may surface once the technology is largely and widely implemented.

Swapnil Shah: Security has always been a concern, even in the previous Gs. We're working on this for our platform. The key is to make sure that the platform democratizes the access, is simple for the consumers and enterprises to authenticate themselves but still follows standard security protocols plus added layer on decryption of the authorized assets.

Security is not something new, it keeps challenging us through all verticals and technology layers historically as well, but we are very much aware of its sensitivity and are taking it in our compliance stride.


V&D: Is 5G going to play a bigger role in enterprise use cases, perhaps even bypassing traditional telecom providers as a whole?

Swapnil Shah: The democratization that 5G brings in, is a game-changer for enterprises and vertical industries. Firstly, the spectrum is more accessible and that’s a massive positive impact on the dependency that the industries had on service providers. They can now control and manage their own SNPN or even work with a service provider on PNI-NPN.

This is where "Private 5G" comes in as we spoke earlier - while that increases the expectation to build, operate and manage the network themselves, but that also allows them to be their own custodian, which is a massive trade-off to be happy about.


Secondly, even if they operate and manage their own network or engage a system integrator or a service provider to do that, at the end of the day, they want to monetize the assets or if not monetize, at least optimize the OPEX to create a sustainable proposition for themselves and the devices and customers consuming the SNPN / PNI-NPN.

Comviva is specifically addressing this segment by building an ADriN platform, aka Application Driven Network, that allows enterprises to subscribe to the underlying network and infra-assets for making their device and consumer journeys intent-driven. This is added to the fact that the application community can build specific apps for these devices and consumers and then use ADriN to test, validate, and host applications for deployment and consumption for the custodians of the enterprises.

V&D: How long do you think will 5G technology take to make the leap, considering all the physical obstacles including greater reach, fibre, and financial feasibility for both service providers and users?

Swapnil Shah: The progress of 5G is taking a bit longer because we're missing a scalable use case now. Right now, the industry and ecosystem seem to be focused on latency, bandwidth, density-related use cases and applications, but that's not enough. Hence this just puts added monetization pressure on existing ARPU and ARPA levels. This will not create the orbit shift chance on B2C and B2B top line.

Considering India, there is absolutely no pressure on financial viability, fibre or greater reach, the only point that India Inc needs to collectively focus on, is to identify the use case and application, which can be scalable and more importantly sustainable against the investments that 5G custodians are cycling in with massive momentum.

At Comviva, we are focusing on how to create an application marketplace abstracting underlying infra, cloud and network assets, which is purely driven by use cases and allowing application developers to build and host new apps, which we believe will take the ecosystem away from just focusing on latency, bandwidth, and density. We believe this attempt will get us to leap stage faster.

V&D: The two main obstacles to 5G right now are coverage and monetization because there are currently few use cases for 5G, do you feel there is a significant mismatch between customers and this technology?

Swapnil Shah: At Comviva, we believe B2B2X has a massive potential when clubbed with 5G to create the CPaaS moment for service providers and enterprises leveraging API through NaaS (network-as-a-service), famously referred as the new API economy. B2B2X cycle is enabling personalized services for enterprises and consumers where they themselves can control and configure the way, how they experience the service in an intent driven mode.

By guaranteeing a reliable experience for customers, Comviva is focusing on creating a "Minimum Committed Experience" (MCE). Just as KPIs were important for networks, MCE became significant for users. It ushers in a fresh revenue avenue through the B2B2X model, wherein each device-to-network transaction triggers monetization.

V&D: Comviva recently introduced its 5G-compatible Application Driven Network Platform, ADriN. Please elaborate on its growth, expansion, and application so far.

Swapnil Shah: ADriN is a 5G-Compatible platform that delivers intent-driven personalized customer experience, agnostic to the experience provider. We've validated problem statements, use cases and value proposition of ADriN with various global service providers and enterprises, especially in practicality of abstracting complexities, providing AI-driven insights, and using machine learning applications to trigger the intent.

Our platform, launched earlier this year at MWC, is progressing on roadmap as planned. Looking ahead, by the end of this year, we're confident about moving a step further on realizing the MCE dream - also as we transition from conceptualization to commercialization stage, we are happy on the ongoing committed service provider engagements, set of ecosystem partners and enterprises.

V&D: Considering the 5G rollout in India is still in progress and that Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel want to provide nationwide coverage by the end of the year, what in your view do we need to achieve 6G? Is there anything being done at your end around the development of 6G technology?

Swapnil Shah: We are a strong believer of customer-centric thinking with product-lead approach and solution mindset. And hence, with the technology and connectivity that’s possible today, our focus is to ensure that 5G reaches to the scale it can. As an industry, it’s ok to get into the buzz of 6G, Satellite Communication and so on, but remain focused on creating monetizable models around 5G for mass adoption.

While we see the potential of 6G and its technological advantages for the industry, currently our attention is on building a democratized and abstracted platform, ADriN, which can help 5G applications and use cases to perform at scale and sustain with participating ecosystem of service providers, enterprises, hyperscalers, device and application communities. By doing this well, we set the groundwork for considering 6G in the future by leveraging and scaling up the assets accordingly.