Telecom, now and beyond, Covid-19: Dr. RS Sharma

The PHDCCI today organized a webinar featuring Dr. RS Sharma, Chairman, TRAI, where it looked at the way forward from the Covid-19 pandemic.

DK Aggarwal, President, PHDCCI, said that telecom has been the life saver during the Covid-19. It connected the country and the business throughout the pandemic. Getting connected with the world was done beautifully right through. There was no slowdown. The credit goes to the regulator. It was also the development of the sector.

India today, is the second largest telecom network in the world. There are nearly 130 crore telecom subscribers and over 67 crore Internet subscribers. Industry 4.0 can take India to the next level, as would technologies such as AI, AR/VR, etc., thanks to the role of telecom.

Providing broadband connectivity
Sandeep Agarwal, Chairman, Telecom Committee, PHDCCI added that the outbreak of the coronavirus impacted businesses and industries around the world. Manufacturing of smartphones have taken a big hit. Telcos have shown rise in the import cost of their networks. However, we have also seen the demand growth. Network choking will definitely not be there. Telecom networks, within, and outside the country, remain working. There is call for rural broadband via FTTH.

Data now becomes the most important. Broadband needs to be provided to everybody. The states and the center should work together to provide broadband connectivity to every house. Lot of fiber will be laid to provide broadband. Right now, 90% is being done via the cable TV providers, with little standardization. We will correct that. Handset manufacturers have also been given a good deal.

TRAI is also working to see that Chinese equipment do not flood the market. Can we go for PM’s slogan: vocal for local? Can the operators buy at least 20% of the 4G equipment from the suppliers in India? If this 20% quantity can be given to the Indian companies, it will help make India more self-sufficient. There will be 2-3 Indian companies who will come up in the next 3-5 years.

Delivering the keynote, Dr. RS Sharma, Chairman, TRAI said he has been associated with the PHDCCI for a long time. He agreed with DK Aggarwal and the others that the pandemic has changed the way we work and communicate. The Government of India is making all the efforts. We are taking lot of steps. Eg., there are drones for sanitization, and robots, AI, etc., are being used. We want to use technology for telemedicine, etc.

RS SharmaVoicenData Bureau | voicendata

Telecom, the saviour
Telecom has emerged as the most important sector in this situation. Telecom is a major platform. Every sector of the economy is using it as a service. The communications systems make the economy vibrant. We are also having lot of virtual meetings.

Telecom is helping us solve many problems. We must be very strategic with the telecom platform in the future. The apps will not work if there is no connectivity infrastructure at the backend. It is in our interest to ensure that. There will be things like healthcare, retail, banking and payments, that will be very important. People are doing WFH. Industry 4.0 and sports will also use it. Hence, telecom is a very sensitive sector. We have three areas: connected India, software and services, and sovereignty. Manufacturing of telecom equipment has also not happened much, so far.

Lot of work has also been done by the various Indian telcos. There have not been any breakdowns. We also need to have a policy of bringing broadband to the homes. We include the provision of the duct infrastructure in multi-storey buildings.

We also need the latest telecom technology. India needs technology, more than any other country. We must deploy modern technology. There are lot of mobile apps being used. We need AI, VR, IoT, for the future use. We need to have standards for all of this. We have also recommended the interoperable Wi-Fi. 5G will have many use cases in our country. Spectrum licensing, promoting cloud services, etc. should be key. We need to invest in digital infrastructure single-mindedly.

We have done many things from the software side. We need to create a very durable infrastructure. We also need to provide an opportunity for the domestic players. We need to promote all the domestic manufacturers.

Robust infrastructure needed
Regarding developing the infrastructure in the rural and semi-urban areas, he said that it is important to introduce a robust infrastructure in these areas. We need to create small places where connectivity can be provided. Fiber can be at one place and it can provide connectivity. BSNL has laid fiber. We need to create a demand for the fiber that will help the villagers.

Metros are well connected with broadband. Can we have a policy to connect the other areas? Dr. Sharma noted that to say that villages do not require 4G and 5G, is not good. We cannot restrict the availability of 4G to the urban areas. We need to create a digital infrastructure. Telecom infrastructure is the most important strategic sector.

As for new business opportunities, he said that there is no sector, which has not been affected, except telecom. You can partner and become a provider of Wi-Fi, broadband, etc. On the software side, there are lots of innovators. There is the telehealth sector. There are other areas like digital security, cyber security, etc. Government support is also there.

Dr. Yogesh Srivastava, PHDCCI, was the moderator of the session.

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