India’s Telecom Landscape: Trends and Predictions for Year 2018


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The year 2017 changed the entire landscape of the Indian telecommunications industry. The service providers had to fight battles on multiple fronts in the year 2017.

While on one end, consolidation wrecked havoc and on the other end the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) hit rock bottom and the telcos struggled to maintain profitability.

The service providers have little choice but to explore newer technologies, geographies and consumer segments to add to their revenue streams. There is also an acceptance of the fact that the era of providing just plain voice and data services has come to an end. The service providers realize that they need to come up with innovative services to compete with the internet operators.

The world over the communications service providers are transforming themselves into digital service providers, and Indian telcos are also moving in that direction. In this background, below are the trends that will dominate the year 2018:

Harnessing The Rural Potential

The year will see the Indian telcos go beyond the urban market. Innovations like 4G feature phones, a significant drop in the cost of smartphones and rock-bottom tariffs have made the telecom services affordable for the rural subscribers.

On the other hand, the recent recommendations in the Indian Telecom Policy proposes to increase the rural teledensity from the current 56.9% to 100% will further push the service providers to start addressing this segment seriously.

So, the urban market is saturated and the rural market has matured, indicating that the time is now right for the service providers to address this segment.

The main challenges faced by the service providers in catering to the rural market are the high cost of deploying and maintaining the network. Couple this with the low ARPU and uneven population density and it is no wonder that the telcos have traditionally shied away from this segment.

However, they will need help from innovative technology solutions to remain profitable even as they meet the unique requirements of the rural market. Fortunately, there are a number of options available now, including virtualization and low maintenance base stations among others, which allow them to offer viable connectivity solutions to the rural market.

IoT Takes Off

Led by Government initiatives like Smart City Mission and Digital India, IoT will come on its own in 2018. A few Indian telcos have already started to take baby steps to capture a part of this growing market and will witness increased traction in this segment.

A key advantage of IoT is collection and analysis of the data generated by connected things and this requires fundamental changes in their networks. An agile and scalable network is almost a prerequisite to enable millions of sensors to talk among themselves. Software-defined radio, which can be easily upgraded to 3G or 4G will not only allow the service providers to bring down the deployment time but also enable faster rollout of services.

The Challenge Of Addressing Enterprise Segment

With the ARPUs hitting rock bottom in the retail market, it is only natural that the telcos will be focusing on the enterprise market, but this is not without challenges.

In an increasingly digitally connected world, more and more enterprises are using a number of collaborative tools and mobile apps. A robust indoor communications infrastructure is a must, which unfortunately has been the Achilles heel of service providers across the globe. Nearly 60% of enterprises have significantly poor indoor coverage, according to report by Small Cell Forum.

Seamless connectivity in an indoor environment is possible with HetNet solution based on Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and Software Defined Networking (SDN). It not only provides reliable indoor connectivity but also brings down the complexity of deployment and maintenance. Indian telcos should go for such technologies to tackle the problem of indoor connectivity, which in turn will allow them to add to their revenue by meeting the demands of the enterprise market.

Virtualization Angle

An ultra-competitive environment in the country’s telecommunications market means that the telcos have to launch newer products faster. This is possible with Virtualization. The approach is critical for telcos to transition from communications services provider to digital services provider, so they can leverage newer market opportunities emerging as digitalization takes hold. The Indian telcos have already warmed up to the concept of virtualization and the year 2018 will see a greater adoption of virtualization in their networks.

LTE For Public Safety

India has witnessed one of the fastest expansion of the 4G networks. It is safe to say that the country has leapfrogged the 3G technology and 2018 might see the country’s administration start to use the technology for public safety.

LTE allows first responders to leverage data network to share real-time videos and location leading to overall better quality of public safety services and enhanced operational efficiency.

As the year 2018 begins, it is time to put the chaos of consolidation in 2017 behind us and leverage the opportunities in the rural, IoT and enterprise segment by making use of technologies such as NFV and SDN.