Fibre Deployment Enabling New Age Innovations: TSSC

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Spotlight on Realizing the Power of Fibre | TelecomDrive.com

Growing demand for connectivity is now coming from not only bigger cities but also from small locations of the country and this is driving further developing rise in demand for optical fibre cable from the telecom and IT segment. Further to this, there is an increased adoption of FTTH (Fibre to the Home) connectivity and surging number of data centres that are driving optical fibre cables market in India over the coming years. Hence, such fibre deployment is enabling new age innovations. All this is creating huge potential for Telecom Sector Skill Council (TSSC) to enable workforce that can handle such fibre expansion and demand generation.

Arvind Bali, CEO, Telecom Sector Skill Council speaks with Zia Askari from TelecomDrive.com about the dynamics of optical fibre market and India’s growing need for broadband access.

How do you anticipate the optical fibre market expanding in conjunction with India’s growing need for broadband access, particularly in rural areas?

Rural India makes up almost 2/3rd of our total population. This also makes them one of the biggest untapped markets for India. During COVID, we saw that data consumption increased across rural subscribers with the push for digital adoption. Currently, India’s Rural Tele density as of Feb’22 was 58.50 % which includes wireless & wireline. Rural Telephone Subscribers as of Feb’22 is 521.28 million.

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Rural India’s internet penetration rate climbed from 4% in 2007 to around 45 percent in 2021. Even though this data is low, they indicate that almost 50% of the population of 1.37 billion of people had access to the internet that year. All these indicators show how lower cost, and more service options are bridging the divide between rural and urban India. Use cases like tele-medicine will soon be crucial to provide vital first aid in critical times. Fibre will make this all possible while further lowering the costs.

India is a hub of talent force and with the advent of new-age technologies and optical fibre shaping up to be an important sector for the companies and the government to invest, how do you plan to leverage the workforce and make them ready to be deployed into the field?  

 India optical fibre cables (OFC) market stood at INR 7,000 crores in 2019 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 19.7% to reach INR 16,500 crore by 2024. This growth will be a result of rising investments in OFC network infrastructure by the Indian government along with increased internet penetration across the country. This is in-line with government initiatives such as Smart Cities, Digital India and AtmaNirbhar Bharat.

Moreover, growing demand for OFC from the telecom, IT etc., rising number of mobile devices, increased adoption of FTTH (Fibre to the Home) connectivity and surging number of data centres are further anticipated to fuel optical fibre cables market in India over the coming years.

Talking about new-age technologies, we will soon see auction of 5G spectrum which will boost industrial and commercial adoption of future tech like IoT, ML/AI, drones, blockchain, M2M communications, AR/VR/XR etc.

The Indian optical fibre and accessories market has seen a surge in the adoption of optical fibre-based networks such as fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connectivity and other cutting-edge technologies. What are the opportunities that you envisage and how do you see the demand going up?

FTTH has become synonymous with internet in most urban dwellings in our country. There is an increase in demand for fibre salesman, fibre splicers, fibre technicians and broadband technicians across India. Companies are hiring at a growing rate. We are currently fulfilling demands in rural areas in over 15 states especially in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand. Companies have already started mobilizing in villages.

Apart from the big telcos and ISPs, some of the major players operating in India OFC market are Sterlite Technologies, Himachal Futuristic Communications, Birla Cables, Vindhya Tele links Limited, etc. RailTel has also been a big part of the Bharat Net project which aims to fiberize internet across India improving last mile connectivity. With so many companies expanding their services, jobs are being created in rural India as well.

How do you envision various government initiatives such as Bharat Net contributing to the realisation of the Digital India vision in the future years?

Digital India has been a phenomenally successful initiative for creating a quantifiable footprint of Indian citizens. This not only makes their daily activities easy by means of digital payment gateways, fuel businesses to scale up on digital platforms (e.g., Paytm, bharatpe etc.) but also helps connect communities to services and information. This has resulted in the boom of opportunities and cross-sectoral verticals like edtech, fintech, Healthtech etc.

Digitization creates accountability, reduces capital and operational expenditure, and requires less manpower to sustain a service or product. This gives an opportunity for MSMEs to compete on both national and international platforms. Moreover, personal finance has become accessible to the common man be it financing, easy monetary transactions via UPI and various apps also helping manage personal finance.

With rising demand for fibre deployments in sectors such as railways and defense, does India have enough skilled labor to deploy the infrastructure, and how do you think the demand/supply gap can be filled?

 Currently, manpower in fibre is inadequate. This has led to delayed timelines on many govt-led projects. What we need is to cultivate a sense of ownership for these workers. Most of these workers are contractual and their job security depends on multiple factors like location, duration of project and salary. Once projects are completed, they find it hard to work in the same line as projects are spaced across India and it isn’t easy to relocate especially for those who are supporting their families.

This leads to them taking up other jobs to sustain a living. What we need is to conduct educatory induction programs for the candidates to help them map a trajectory for their professional career. For contractual workers already in the workforce, standardizing their skills through programs like Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY). This extra step has been shown to reduce worker attrition and will help provide continuity for both employees and employers.

This interview is published as part of July 2022 issue of Disruptive Telecoms.


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