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What is next for the telcos?

What should the telcos do to make the most of 5G and digitalisation while cutting down costs and collaborating with the competition?

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VoicenData Bureau
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What is next for the telcos1

What should the telcos do to make the most of 5G and digitalisation while cutting down costs and collaborating with the competition? New questions. New answers

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Where do we go from here and what new turns and potholes await us? This fireside chat at TLF 2023 tried to find exactly that. It was moderated with a new GPS acumen by Pradeep Gupta, Chairman, CyberMedia Group. He steered the panel into some bold questions and tangents.

He asked Akhil Gupta, Vice Chairman, Bharti Enterprises to dig into the aspect of Satellite Communications – as an evolutionary turn for the industry. Akhil Gupta explained, “I am astounded at the way lower-orbit constellations are developing, especially how the costs here are significantly lower than those in the Western economies. It’s a big race between terrestrial and satellite as we move from 4G to 6G. But as we go forward, a lot of complimentary equations will come with satellite as a backup. This will be good for far-flung, low-density areas like the mountainous and rural regions.”

P Balaji, Chief Regulatory and Corporate Affairs Officer, Vodafone Idea unravelled the enterprise side of the industry next. “A lot of solutions and revenue streams have come in. We are getting an understanding with many pilots in factory automation, education and customer intimacy drivers. With virtualisation and digitalisation, there is a significant growth in opportunities in the last few years and it will grow very strongly in the next five to seven years. On customer dimensions, 5G has not given revenues yet anywhere in the world but on the enterprise side, revenue jumps and cost reductions are both promising.”

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To survive, the industry needs higher ARPUs, lower per GB price, strong use cases, sufficient investments and robust returns on capital employed.

What is next for the telcos2

What is next for the telcos2

There are no boundaries

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Ravi Gandhi, President and Chief Public Policy and Regulatory Officer, Reliance Jio and Retail admitted that 5G use cases are yet to shape up well. “With low-latency, edge computing and network slicing, it can support a lot of possibilities across verticals. It’s like we have created the highway and now we are waiting for users to come. That will lead to revenue.”

Gandhi also highlighted that while 4G use cases were e-commerce and aggregation, which pushed the ecosystem five-seven years back, 5G, will see different use cases and a lot of start-ups in the Internet of Things, Machine Learning, and Artificial Learning space. “One phenomenon worth noting is the convergence, both at the network layer and service layer. Old-generation networks were different and in the next few years, we will see the death of boundaries. We will see boundaryless networks and the driver for the economy would be the device in a person’s hand.”

He also stressed that India’s rural penetration is way better than other regions in the world. India is also very well-seated on digital infrastructure, other panellists averred. The panel also talked about structural and policy reforms and the government’s role in the industry. There were also musings on how all four players need to survive together and help in the country’s vision collaboratively. “We don’t need to just survive but thrive,” the panellists agreed.

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And for that to happen, the industry needs higher ARPUs, a reduction in price per GB, strong use cases with rich monetisation, sufficient investments and robust returns on capital employed. Reduction of costs can come from sharing of infrastructure, leveraging fibre, and policy changes like spectrum charges, and reduction in taxes. The industry also needs new skills and competencies as well as using AI, ML etc. in the right way. Indians have demonstrated the ability to unlearn and relearn- that’s the strength of our nation, underlined Balaji.

Innovative start-ups, customer intimacy strides, collaborations, and new enterprise revenue streams are the way forward.

As a panellist rightly said, it is about time.

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By Pratima Harigunani

pratimah@cybermedia.co.in

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