Let’s be honest – These days it is not just about Roti, Kapda, Makaan, (Flatbread, Clothes and Housing) it is all about Roti, Kapda, Makaan and Internet! And luckily for us all, we are going to talk about the most important thing that is powering the internet!
Optical fibre is at the heart of communication networks. It took over from the copper cables in the 1970s and revolutionized telecommunications!
Today optical fibers run through millions of kilometers over land and on sea beds connecting every corner of the world. In 2019 alone, enough fibre was laid to pulley yourself to the moon and back, not 1 time, but all of 430 times!
So how did optical fibres come to be? What made the world choose them over copper cables?
Since the invention of telegraphs and telephones copper cables have been connecting and serving the world, however, they carried information in the form of electric impulses which resulted in heat generation and high losses. This required installation of repeaters at short distances to regenerate the lost electrical signal. With the rapid expansion of communication networks, there was a need for a more efficient mode of transmission.
By the early 70s, engineers had developed flexible strands of ultra-pure glass as thin as human hair, called optical fibres. These fibres had high bandwidth capacity, could carry signals over longer distances, faster, and at much lower signal loss. They were, thus, both space and cost-efficient.
One optical fiber today carries multiple signals of different wavelengths at the same time in the form of light each representing a different data channel. 100s and 1000s of these optical fibres are bundled together to form an optical fibre cable.
But how exactly does light travel inside this strand of glass?
As light moves from one medium to another, it bends a little. If the light hits the surface at a particular angle, while moving from a denser medium to a rarer medium, complete reflection of light takes place. This phenomenon is called total internal reflection. This is the principle on which optical fibres work.
The mirage that we see on a sunny day while driving is best explained by using the concept of Total Internal Reflection. (Thanks to our dear friend Dhruv Girdhar for this example)
Optical fibre is made up of #1 the core and #2 the cladding which surrounds the core.
The glass used in the core has a higher refractive index than the glass used in the cladding, making the core denser than the cladding. Using the principle of total internal reflection, light is trapped inside the core as it is guided along the length of the optical fibre. However, while traveling through the core, it also spreads through a slightly larger area including the inner edge of the fibre cladding. This effective area is the fibre’s mode field diameter or MFD.
Types of Optical Fibres
#1 Single Mode
Single Mode Fibre– This is the most widely used fibre having a very narrow core of around 9 microns. It is ideal for long-haul signal transmission applications such as across or between campuses, undersea or in remote offices.
Multi-Mode Fibre – These have higher ‘light gathering’ ability due to larger core with a diameter of 50 microns (μm) and 62.5 microns, they simplify connections in applications like data centers.
Above a certain wavelength, known as cut off wavelength, a fibre supports only a single mode. Currently, Single-mode fibre is optimized to operate at 1310 and 1550 nm and 1625 nm wavelengths whereas multi-mode fibre operate at 850 and 1300 nm.
Do optical fibres carry signal without any losses?
Any mode of signal transmission would have losses. But the degradation of signals inside an optical fibre is much lower over long distances in comparison to electrical and radio signals. In an optical fiber, the major cause of losses would be attenuation (which happens due to absorption and scattering of light signal inside the core or micro bends which are axial distortions on core-cladding interface caused majorly by the local mechanical stress placed on the cable during manufacturing or packaging) or largely macro bends (this results in light leakage due to cable bends beyond the specified bend radius during installation).
Fibre is effectively replacing the traditional copper cables – or telephone lines – that have been used to transmit data. The fibre cable is an incredibly thin glass or plastic which transmits information coded within a beam of light. It was originally developed in the 1950s for the medical community in the form of endoscopes, but in the following decade, engineers discovered they could use the same technology to transmit telephone calls.
Benefits of Fibre?
1. Greater bandwidth – As with the 5G mobile technology, one of the biggest benefits of business fibre is the increased bandwidth allowing for the transmission of more data quickly.
2. Enhanced speeds – The increased bandwidth of fibre and the ability of cables to transmit information via light means that fibre is significantly faster than previous copper cables.
3. More reliability – Fibre optic cables aren’t impacted by temperature changes, extreme weather, or moisture which means there is a limited interruption in the transmission of data. Because fibre doesn’t carry electric currents, it’s not susceptible to electromagnetic interference either.
4. Scalability – Fibre cables can be easily increased or reduced depending on an organization’s need. It’s also able to incorporate fibre into existing networks, integrating equipment to meet various needs.
Fibre – It is something we don’t Sea! (Pun Intended!)
Since the first undersea fiber optic cable, TAT-8, was constructed by a consortium of companies in 1988, the number of cables snaking across the ocean floor has risen dramatically. In fact, over 100 new cables will have been laid between 2016 and 2020, with a value of nearly $14 billion.
Increasing bandwidth requirements have transformed content providers from customers to cable owners. As a result, tech giants like Google and Facebook are taking a more active role in the expansion of the global fiber-optic network. (Src – Visual Capitalist)
All about 5G
This is the 5th generation of mobile networks which will be a step up from our existing 4G LTE networks. The design of the mobile network focuses on meeting the massive growth in data and connectivity, paving the way for IoT and future innovations. At first, 5G will operate alongside the existing 4G networks before fully established.
It’s no secret that 5G will bring us faster speeds, better performance, and more reliable service for our mobile devices. (For example, 5G will enable users to download a high-def film in under one second as opposed to the 10+ minutes it currently takes on 4G/LTE.)
But it will also place huge demands on wired infrastructure. Before 5G networks become prevalent, your network infrastructure needs to be able to reliably and continuously support thousands of devices (or more) – as well as the data collected and transmitted by these devices.
Every version of mobile phone networks has been created with a specific purpose in mind:
- 1G was introduced in 1982 to support analog voice
- 2G was introduced in 1991 to support digital voice and messaging
- 3G was introduced in 1998 to support data and multimedia service (like email)
- 4G/LTE was introduced in 2008 to support IP voice and data, as well as video and mobile internet service
- 5G – the latest generation – is designed to support IoT and Big Data (like connected/autonomous cars, factory robotics, smart cities, etc.)
Recently, we’ve been reaching the limits of current wireless network technology. Average mobile data usage has inched up steadily every month since 2014, mobile traffic is set to quadruple before 2021, and a user’s bandwidth is expected to grow nearly 50% every year according to Nielsen’s Law of Internet Bandwidth. A new solution is needed to keep up with these bandwidth and speed needs, and 5G may be the answer.
How does 5G work?
5G uses a vast network of small cell stations located on light poles and building roofs, among other locations, to transmit signals via the millimeter wave spectrum (30 GHz to 300 GHz). With its shorter wavelength, a millimeter wave can only travel short distances and is susceptible to weather and obstacles, such as buildings, walls, coated windows and foliage. Millimeter wave technology works best in densely populated areas or open venues, such as in factories or stadiums, that can be blanketed with low-powered small cell stations to properly gain line of sight and boost radio signals.
Less dense areas also can take advantage of 5G but would have to use lower frequency bands — for example, low-band and midband — with the tradeoff being support for fewer devices at potentially lower speeds and greater latency. For now, many organizations are concentrating their enterprise 5G efforts in dense areas or open venues to take optimal advantage of 5G’s capabilities.
The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is working on 5G standards — such as 5G New Radio, a replacement for the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard — so enterprises need to pay close attention to its work. 5G New Radio supports the growth of wireless communication by enhancing electromagnetic radiation spectrum efficiency.
5G, Fibre and other technology Jargons and their Meanings
Fiber optic networks and their role in 5G
Fiber optic networks are a type of high-speed wireline network offering improved speed, security, and bandwidth over legacy copper systems. Fiber optic technology has long been used in long-haul networks due to its high performance over long distances — fiber can travel as far as 40 miles without losing signal strength.
Now fiber is increasingly being used in metro and access networks instead of copper. And because copper can only carry a gigabit signal about 300 feet, many businesses choose to continue the fiber connection all the way to their premises — called a fiber to the premises (FTTP) configuration — to avoid losing signal strength. In essence, fiber optic networks are limited only by the technology used to transmit and receive signals.
In an ideal world, every phone, smart sensor, and the mobile device could be directly connected to the fiber backbone — but that would limit the mobility of the devices. That’s where 5G wireless network technology comes in. 5G networks will essentially be designed to bridge the short distance between a mobile device (as in 5G mobile services) or business (as in 5G fixed broadband) and the fiber backbone.
Demand for the company’s products and services has remained resilient in these difficult times as telecommuting, online education, and a surge in video gaming have emphasized the necessity of bandwidth amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
What is 5G?
5G is fifth-generation cellular technology that supports multigigabit data rates, likely exceeding traditional wireline network speeds. While 5G’s potential speed of 20 Gbps is a significant draw, its low latency — 1 millisecond or less — is even more attractive for enterprise applications — such as augmented reality, the internet of things (IoT), location awareness, and branch connectivity. With built-in security, 5G has the potential to be more secure than its cellular service predecessors.
How does 5G work?
5G uses a vast network of small cell stations located on light poles and building roofs, among other locations, to transmit signals via the millimeter-wave spectrum (30 GHz to 300 GHz). With its shorter wavelength, a millimeter-wave can only travel short distances and is susceptible to weather and obstacles, such as buildings, walls, coated windows, and foliage. Millimeter-wave technology works best in densely populated areas or open venues, such as in factories or stadiums, that can be blanketed with low-powered small cell stations to properly gain line of sight and boost radio signals.
Less dense areas also can take advantage of 5G but would have to use lower frequency bands — for example, low-band and mid-band — with the tradeoff being support for fewer devices at potentially lower speeds and greater latency. For now, many organizations are concentrating their enterprise 5G efforts in dense areas or open venues to take optimal advantage of 5G’s capabilities.
The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is working on 5G standards — such as 5G New Radio, a replacement for the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard — so enterprises need to pay close attention to its work. 5G New Radio supports the growth of wireless communication by enhancing electromagnetic radiation spectrum efficiency.
What would the end applications look like with 5G?
5G speed can transform everyday tasks into enhanced experiences as faster speeds and response times enable new applications that can offer real-time interactivity and experiences that are so immersive that it is almost like the real thing. Singtel’s Gan Siok Hoon tells The Drum what consumers and marketers can expect from the technology.
For example, a self-driving car will still look like a car, but the way one operates will be absolutely different with 5G. Consumers will notice and feel the fastest speed, response times, and connectivity of 5G, notes Gan, who is the managing director of consumer sales and mobile marketing, consumer for Singapore at Singtel, during The Drum’s Digital Summit.
“In terms of speed and ultra-fast 5G network like ours, offer speeds of more than 1.2 Gbps and that is 10 times faster than 4G. This means that movies, games, and content that used to take minutes to download can now be done in a matter of seconds. For example, a 4k movie clip can be downloaded in just 48 seconds on 5G compared to four minutes on 4G,” she says.
Fibre or 5G?
Both communication networks come with a host of associated benefits but there is a misconception that 5G technology will replace fibre. The reality is that 5G wireless networks and fibre optic networks will actually complement each other, both offering a cohesive internet experience.
The differences between 5G and 4G
While 4G cellular service has been instrumental in powering the mobile workforce, 5G will likely be better known for improving enterprise operations.
4G LTE is limited by its spectrum, which only reaches 6 GHz. 5G’s millimeter-wave operates between 30 GHz and 300 GHz, which means the wider channels can transmit more data. 4G’s use of lower frequency bands impedes latency, speed, and capacity, even though its signals can travel farther between radios or tall cell towers. Compared to 4G networks, 5G networks support up to 100 times more users and devices.
5G will require organizations to invest in a new core infrastructure that includes base stations and antennas as well as onboard radios for devices and sensors. 5G’s shorter travel distances also demand more infrastructure — namely more small cell stations, which currently are the size of a pizza box, to get signals from one point to another without interference. 5G has brought about a whole new set of capabilities, including network slicing, which enables businesses to safely and cost-effectively share 5G connectivity.
Business benefits of enterprise 5G
Organizations have long wanted a flexible and secure connectivity option for the enterprise, and the features of 5G meet that need. As TechTarget contributor John Fruehe wrote, 5G will benefit businesses in five key ways:
- Increased speed and bandwidth make cellular technology a viable option to bring automation to branch offices.
- 5G services provide less costly and more flexible alternatives to MPLS and other dedicated lines primarily used for latency-sensitive applications.
- With increased density, 5G can support more users and devices connected in the same physical area without affecting availability.
- Estimates of power savings at 90% — a significant cost reduction for IoT networks — make 5G a compelling IoT use case, as some IoT devices could experience a 10-year remote battery life.
- Additional security features, including key management services, make 5G a more trusted option than 4G for IoT, branch, and other enterprise traffic.
Providers, manufacturers, and governments overall are working to make 5G a secure technology, which should assuage any concerns businesses have about vulnerabilities. For example, 5G’s encryption has been boosted to 256-bit from 128-bit encryption used in 4G. Due to security concerns, some countries, including the U.S., have banned the use of equipment from untrusted China-based vendors.
5G architecture and features
5G architecture better supports machine-to-machine communication than its predecessors because it features the ability to transmit large data streams, supports real-time decision-making, and fosters automation. Unsurprisingly, 5G supports cloud connectivity and relies more heavily on software programmability. 5G also is designed to be compatible with other wireless technologies, including 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi, touting management features that enable it to aggregate and orchestrate connectivity.
Private 5G network architecture
5G networks offer both public and private options, with large enterprises often preferring the private 5G option. While private networks can be more costly, as TechTarget site editor Jennifer English noted, they enable enterprises “to customize their 5G buildouts to meet application requirements, more finely manage infrastructure and secure data on-premises.”
5G and Wi-Fi 6
5G and Wi-Fi 6 might look like competitors in the enterprise, but in many cases, they can peacefully coexist or even be integrated. For instance, Wi-Fi 6 would be better suited for congested spaces that have obstacles and a little line of sight, while 5G would work well in open spaces that require high speeds and low latency. Seamless handoffs between Wi-Fi and 5G networks will mean the two technologies can be used together to support a growing remote workforce.
5G and Wi-Fi 6 both have powerful signal modulation, authentication, and security features. Like 5G’s attention to power consumption, Wi-Fi 6 has power-saving functions that can reduce the load on access points.
Typically, one main difference between cellular and Wi-Fi technology has been how they operate in licensed vs. unlicensed frequency bands, but 5G changes that. Experts warn that using 5G in an unlicensed band could create interference with Wi-Fi, so businesses need to be diligent in planning out their coverage.
Also, Wi-Fi lacks the mobility support necessary to facilitate sessions being transferred between access points. This comes into play if a company wants to track the movement of products or robots in various Wi-Fi coverage areas, where 5G could handle those transfers with ease.
5G, IoT and edge computing
IoT and edge computing have distinct demands for high speed and low latency. In many cases, sensors are sending mission-critical information to edge devices or out to the cloud to be aggregated, analyzed, and acted upon. For example, consider self-driving vehicles, assembly line equipment, and city surveillance cameras that constantly send and receive data.
5G’s low-power requirements extend battery life, making it a perfect match for IoT networks. This feature also enables enterprises to be innovative in their architecture designs since they won’t have to be tied to a power source.
Internet ecosystem in India
It is an understatement when we say that there is a large market opportunity in the Indian Internet ecosystem. Be it Financial services (fintech), Payments, Life Services, Food Technology, E-commerce, and then online education.
The E-Commerce market is expected to grow from US$24 Bn in 2018 to US$133 Bn in 2025 (CAGR of ~30%). Online shoppers are projected to reach 330 Mn by 2025, driving the online retail market growth. The increase in internet penetration, higher per capita income, broader selection, and convenient delivery are driving adoption and growth.
Life services/ Food delivery which includes food delivery, ride-hailing, and online travel booking is expected to increase from US$13 Bn in 2018 to US$61 Bn in 2025. All three segments are duopoly markets. The food delivery market is dominated by Zomato (Alibaba) and Swiggy (backed by Naspers). Ride-hailing has Ola and Uber (both funded by SoftBank)
Payments/Fintech – India is an attractive market for fintech disruption driven by increasing smartphone and internet penetration and low banking penetration. The penetration of digital C2B payments (cards, UPI, wallets) is expected to increase from ~9% of GDP in 2018 to ~30% of GDP in 2025. UPI payments are expected to grow at ~60% CAGR driven by UPI QR payments for merchants. The card spends (debit + credit) is expected to grow at ~23% CAGR. The overall share of UPI is expected to increase 50-55% of digital payments by 2025, while cards would be 40-45%.
EdTech – India’s education market is expected to grow 2x from $ 63 Bn in 2016 to $ 126 Bn in 2022 at 12% CAGR. Spends on the K12 education market expected at US$55Bn by 2022. Post K12 education market at US$71Bn. India EdTech user base saw a sharp spike due to Covid: total users grew 2x from 45Mn in 2019 to 90Mn in Apr”20. EdTech market is expected to grow from $0.7 Bn in 2019 to $3.5 Bn in 2022, growth at ~60% CAGR.
History of Wireless communications in India
What role will 5G play for India?
5G has been designed for global adoption with the flexibility to support a wide number of applications. Its adoption in India will involve many use cases adopted widely in the world, but also some unique applications to suit India’s needs. 5G’s value for India may be even higher than in advanced countries because of the lower levels of investments in physical infrastructure. 5G may offer ‘leapfrog’ opportunities by providing ‘smart infrastructure’ that offers lower cost and faster infrastructure delivery. A good example of this leapfrog effect, in the past, was in telephony. India’s telephone density till the late 1990s remained small due to the high-cost of fixed-line telephony. However, the arrival of mobile networks vastly reduced the cost of service delivery and the country’s telephone penetration went from less than 5% in 1995 to 95% by 2010, bringing striking benefits to the Indian economy.
A more recent example of a leapfrog effect is ride-sharing made possible by wireless internet access on 4G smartphones. Shared ride-hailing services have transformed the infrastructure efficiencies in the utilization of shared cars, autos, and motorcycles. Though still early in its growth, vehicle sharing promises significant infrastructure value.
5G technologies will offer even more opportunities in infrastructure efficiencies. For example, 5G will enable ‘vehicle platooning’, a technology that exploits 5G’s low latency communication capability to pack vehicles into platoons with low inter-vehicle spacing despite traveling at high speeds. 5G will allow rapid coordination between the vehicles and keep the vehicles in the platoon safe.
Platooning can double vehicle density on roads promoting efficient and safer use of the limited road infrastructure. In manufacturing, 5G will enable the use of robotics for precision manufacturing, particularly where humans cannot perform these functions safely or with the necessary precision. 5G can also enable better logistics to track goods from raw materials to product delivery and improved sharing of expensive design and manufacturing resources across the country.
In agriculture, 5G can enable improvement in the entire value-chain, from precision farming, smart irrigation, improved soil, and crop monitoring, to livestock management.
In the energy sector, ‘smart grids’ and ‘smart metering’ can be efficiently supported enabling the growth of alternate energy technologies. With the rise of renewable and storage technologies, low latency communications will be critical to managing these grids.
In health-care, 5G can enable more effective telemedicine delivery, tele-control of surgical robotics, and wireless monitoring of vital statistics. With the majority Indian middle class living in urban areas, a variety of 5G business models for new services are likely to be successful. However, the economically weaker sections of the population will need special help to benefit from 5G technologies. Clearly, it is this segment of the population living in smaller towns and villages that require special attention from India’s 5G initiatives.
The Story called Data Consumption
Global data creation and consumption is on an ever-increasing curve and this is evident in how new experiences and applications are being exposed to consumers and how enterprises are unlocking newer business opportunities informed by data and analytics.
In the near future, smart sensors and connected devices will be built into almost everything—appliances, cameras, doors, cars, and manufacturing equipment—just to name a few and all will be generating humongous amounts of data.
The global pandemic has made the shift to digital permanent. For the majority of organizations across the globe, digital disruption is no longer a concern but the new normal. The Internet and data are now so all-pervasive and ubiquitous that it can be safely considered as the fourth utility, alongside water, gas, and electricity.
At no time in recent history, has this been more evident than in the recent COVID-19 pandemic, where the interconnectedness and resiliency of data networks have been in the limelight and have enabled the shift to remote working.
In the medium to long term, as the world emerges from this crisis, it is anticipated that some of these shifts in mindset and behavioral changes will carry on. The onus will be on telecom sector companies, ancillaries, OEMs, and government agencies to keep innovating and ensuring the world remains increasingly more interconnected.
According to a recent report by International Data Corporation (IDC), global annual data traffic is expected to reach ~10 ZB by 2025 (where 1 ZB equals to 1 trillion GB) on the back of several factors.
Domestic data use trends
• Post introduction of 4G services in 2016, total data traffic increased 44 times (2015—2019) which is one of the highest in the world
• 4G constitutes over 95% of total data traffic across all categories
• Monthly data usage per user has increased ~14 times over the last four years (800 MB to 11 GB)
• More than 30+ OTT platforms in India, Indians access OTT platforms 12.5 times per week and consume 70 minutes per day
The Industry is at an Inflection Point
As remote working becomes the new norm, the demand for data connectivity continues to grow exponentially. The current digital infrastructure is not primed to manage this sudden spike in web traffic, so a completely new architecture is evolving – the next-gen digital network.
These networks will be built in a fundamentally different way by bringing together four specialized technological confluences:
• wired and wireless
• software and hardware
• connectivity and compute
• open source – all at the edge of the network. This network will bring the scale and quality to bring affordable internet to the world.
Digital service providers and cloud companies globally have accelerated their investments in developing these next-gen digital networks.
Significant network creation beyond telcos
Telcos will dominate network CAPEX but the importance of Cloud Companies and Large Enterprise segment is increasing due to high growth.
Network creation by large enterprises – A strong trend that is observed is the creation of private networks by enterprises. Today, growing demand for coverage, speed, and reliability for mission-critical processes/devices, combined with technological innovations such as IoT devices and AR/VR applications, is pushing many enterprises to consider 5G private networks and explore the new possibilities they offer.
The major hot zones for deployment of 5G private networks would include:
• Ports, airports, and similar logistics hubs
• Factories and warehouses
• Private office spaces, campuses, greenfield installations
Major private network projects across the world
• Ericsson and Telefonica Germany are collaborating with Mercedes-Benz to build a private 5G network for a new production facility in southern Germany
• Ericsson and Canadian private network provider, Ambra Solutions, recently provided a private LTE solution for connectivity to a mining company – Agnico Eagle at one of their mining sites in Quebec, Canada. The private network enables connectivity at a depth of 3 km underground
Sterlite Technologies FY20 AR Takeaways
Technology adoption has found a new momentum during the COVID-19 crisis where the new normal now includes virtual ways to work, interact and entertain.
As the world adapts to these changes, we are seeing substantial shifts in usage patterns and traffic in five key ways:
a) from predominantly entertainment to enterprises and cloud use cases
b) from download only to symmetric uploads and downloads – boosted by video conferencing
c) from asynchronous to real-time use cases, requiring instantaneous response time
d) from office networks to ever-increasing home networks usage
e) an increase in traffic by 60-70% in the past few months The businesses are also identifying the right mix of virtual collaboration tools to be able to work with employees and partners. The digital strategies have been revamped and new investments are being made to adapt to the changing needs of employees, customers, and partners.
An Exceptional Opportunity?
Global telcos are looking at hyper-scale networks that are denser, deeply fiberized, and software-defined with computing at the edge. It is estimated that telcos will invest $1.1 trillion in their networks globally in the next five years and ~80% (~$800 billion) will be in 5G.
Enterprises are also looking to strengthen or modernize their digital networks to ride new-age applications for real-time situational awareness and faster decision-making.
Cloud companies are looking to advance their data center hyperscale connectivity to come up with comprehensive solutions for communication, collaboration, and business process while ensuring security and privacy.
Citizen networks are making heavy investments in expanding the broadband footprints to drive Internet penetration to nearly 50% global population that is still digitally disconnected. The next generation of networks is shifting towards network densification, edge computing, open-source, and virtualization.
Telcos across key economies are investing in 5G
• China has been a trailblazer in embracing 5G. While 5G was launched only in November 2019, the three operators (the state-owned China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom) in the country have already signed more than 40 million 5G subscribers. All three operators have aggressive 5G rollout plans for the year and they have recently (April 2020) awarded contracts worth more than $10 billion for 5G
• Verizon (USA) has gone live with 5G in parts of 31 cities using ultra-high-speed, low-area mmWave technology
• T-mobile (Germany) has launched 5G selectively and is following a ‘full layer cake’ strategy as their 5G customers can tap into low-band 5G, mid-band 5G, and mmWave 5G airwaves
• Vodafone UK launched its 5G service in July 2019 in seven cities. As of today, Vodafone offers 5G in 41 cities
• South Korea, one of the earliest movers in 5G has reached a 5G penetration of 9.67%, representing the highest penetration rate around the globe, and acquired ~6 million subscribers. The South Korean government announced that the country’s three major telecom carriers (SK Telecom, KT, and LG Uplus) had agreed to invest $3.4 billion in their 5G networks during the first half of this year
Defence forces – A big player in fibre technology!
There is a great deal of focus on network build and modernization in India’s defense forces. Of particular interest in this context is the institution of Office of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) with the aim to integrate the operations of the three forces i.e. Indian Army, the Indian Air Force, and the Indian Navy.
With the approval of the CDS, India will also have joint military commands to bring jointness in operations, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs, and maintenance. STL believes that this could be a catalyst for:
- Bringing defense forces existing communication network to a similar level of maturity
- Driving interoperability in the upcoming network upgradation projects
Consolidation of IT infrastructure to enable effective joint operation requirement
- Increased readiness to cyber warfare through enhanced network security
India’s defense forces have prioritized network modernization of its Navy, Army, Air Force, and Border Security Force, all building secured digital networks. Total IT/ITES budget annual budget for network modernization is in the range of Rs 12,000 crores according to Sterlite Tech estimates.
COVID-19 has accelerated investments in digital networks
Over the last couple of decades, Internet connectivity has become the lifeblood of global economies, fuelling innovation, and technological advancement. Amidst COVID-19, the need for ubiquitous connectivity increased exponentially. As remote working became the new norm, data consumption increased globally with education services, healthcare, entertainment, and so on.
While the synchronized ‘Great Lockdown’ impacts most industries globally, the telecom sector will be among the least affected. Even as CY20 spending will take a hit, it is expected that there will be a strong revival of spending in CY21 (driven by FTTH and 5G CAPEX).
Operators had committed significant CAPEX outlay for 5G. While the spread of COVID-19 has raised concerns, large operators are still going ahead with these commitments such as:
• 5G spending in China has started again and the top three telcos of the country have come out with multi-billion-dollar 5G contracts
• Japan launched its 5G network in March 2020 There is a slew of Fibre-to-the-x (FTTx) rollout projects with massive funding that are currently underway, including Open Reach; City Fibre; UK Government’s gigabit connectivity funding of $5 billion; FCC’s funding of rural digital opportunity of $20.4 billion; Virgin Media’s gigabit connectivity rollout and many more.
Data center demand and usage is also clearly surging
Data centers will benefit in the wake of new norms (WFH, OTT, video conferencing) and ‘forced adoption’ by laggards (like the government, retail, and others).
• Google Q1 cloud revenues up 52% compared to last year
• Microsoft Q3 revenue in the Intelligent Cloud segment— which includes Azure—rose 27%. Overall cloud revenue grew by 59% This, in turn, has led to hyperscale players increasing spend on new data centers, like
• Amazon Web Services, has applied for fast-track planning permission to build three more data centres in Northern Virginia
• Alibaba revealed that it will invest ¥200 billion ($28.26 billion) in its cloud computing division over the next three years. As a result of social distancing, home confinement, and remote working policies that many governments have adopted as part of the Great Lockdown, there has been a massive surge in usage of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) services.
What is the telecom watchdog TRAI and Government saying about all these technologies?
What are Indian Telcos doing?
With an auction scheduled for next year, India has yet to award licenses for the new 5G mobile standard. But its operators are still busy modernizing and upgrading their networks as they prepare for the technology’s arrival.
Reliance Jio, which launched its service just four years ago, already has a full Internet Protocol (IP) network, making its task the easiest. “We are all-IP network and that is giving us a head start towards our readiness of 5G,” said Shyam Mardikar, Jio’s group chief technology officer of mobility, at a recent industry event. “Fiber, which is crucial for 5G, is also playing to our advantage,” he said. “We had invested heavily in getting our sites fiberized. We are working towards finalizing the footprint and fine-tuning this 4G network.””We are also looking at power readiness because the new radios will consume more power, and we need to upgrade the sites to handle new radios,” he added.
By contrast, Vodafone Idea’s strategy is based on using its 4G network to offer a 5G-like service. This could translate into a competitive advantage ahead of the auction and take some pressure off Vodafone Idea to invest in costly new spectrum licenses. “Our approach has been to prepare the network with as much of 5G technology as possible, so, irrespective of what happens in the spectrum, we will be able to provide many of the features, functionalities, and benefits of 5G,” said Vishant Vora, Vodafone Idea’s chief technology officer. To provide those 5G-like services, Vodafone Idea has focused on introducing cloud and virtualiation technologies into its 4G network. “Today, we have done the highest degree of virtualization and cloudification,” said Vora. “Cloudification is necessary to unleash the full power of 5G.” “Beyond virtualization, containerization is what we are doing now … we call it CNF [containerized network functions], and it is helping us to make the entire cloud so much more flexible and agile.”So that’s something we are doing to accelerate 5G-type of capabilities in the market without having to wait for 5G spectrum.”
For Randeep Sekhon, the chief technology officer of Bharti Airtel, the main concern is about real estate. “The biggest challenge is on the infrastructure side because it will need additional space on all the towers, especially on ground base installations,” he said. He also thinks operators must come up with new service offerings for both residential and business customers. “5G will be a huge investment, apart from the spectrum,” he said. “In that context, the business case of 5G will stand if there are both B2C and B2B use cases.” “Here, developing B2B use cases is another challenge because it is not like a broadband service. B2B use cases will need to be built bespoke for different industry verticals and even for a particular company.”
Telcos also face some backhaul constraints in India. Spectrum in the E-band (71-76GHz) and V-band (57-64GHz) is emerging as a popular backhaul option for 5G services, which may require ultrafast connections and low latency.
“Backhaul links using the V-band or the E-band are well suited to supporting 5G due to their 10 Gbit/s to 25 Gbit/s data throughput capabilities,” said the GSM Association, an industry group, in a recent report.
What are Indian Telcos saying on 5G, IoT, Fiber, and allied technologies?
Are there any other technologies challenging fiber, 5G, Wifi6?
In the dynamic world that we live in, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the answer to the above question is a big yes! (Click on project names to read more on them)
Triggers for Increased use of Internet and therefore the increased use of Fiber and allied technologies
With a spike in India’s internet savvy population, global companies are introducing their digital offerings to the consumers.There’s also a surge of user-generated content leading to increased data storage requirements for many of these companies.
The future of India’s internet network is changing; there will be almost 750-800 million users connected to internet in India by 2023!
The Indian data center market is currently operating at a capacity of approximately 700 MW, which is catering to data generated by 493 million active internet users. Compared to Europe’s data center capacity of more than 8600 MW with 460 million internet users, India will need to ramp up its data center capabilities – sooner than later. The country currently needs to develop 15 times more data center capacity to address the ever-increasing data storage needs of digital India.
State governments of Maharashtra and Telangana are already incentivizing schemes for the data center providers. Restrictions on land acquisition and electrical power, which are necessary to build the basic skeleton of a data center building have been relaxed. A huge investment is seen in Mumbai and Chennai as these cities are the country’s only global cable landing stations, ensuring uninterrupted data traffic from across the globe. (Concall of Mindspace REIT and some scuttlebutt with Real Estate Industry CXOs)
E-Commerce in India has low penetration, (<10%) but the market is growing rapidly (30%+ CAGR). E-Commerce is expected to grow more than five-fold to US$133 Bn by 2025. It’s a three-player market across horizontal e-commerce – Amazon, Flipkart (Walmart) & Reliance (JioMart).
India’s retail market was ~US$700Bn in 2018, expected to grow at 10% CAGR, and reach US$1.3Tn by 2025. Organized retail is expected to grow faster (18% CAGR) and reach a ~15% share of the market by 2025 (2018: 8%). Ecommerce is expected to have the strongest growth and reach 10.4% of the market by 2025. Food & grocery and apparel & lifestyle expected to account for >80% of the Indian retail market.
References /Bibliography –
Bernstein Report on internet trends
Sterlite Technologies YouTube channel videos
DoT Report on 5G Steering Committee
Light Reading – Gagandeep Kaur’s article on what telcos are doing
Digital India Site
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