The second wave of COVID has not slowed down decision-making in the telecom market and operators are focused on managing network capacities based on a spike in data demand, with safety protocols in place, a top Ericsson India official has said.
The Swedish telecom equipment vendor said it is “fully prepared” for 5G deployment in India as and when rollouts happen, but it is for the government and policymakers to decide on the actual timelines.
Asked if the second severe wave of COVID had led to any slowdown in decision-making in the telecom market, Nitin Bansal, Managing Director of Ericsson India and Head of Network Solutions Ericsson South East Asia, Oceania and India told PTI, “No, we have not seen that”.
“Data consumption continues, I have not seen a reduction in anything. Operators are working hard to manage capacities based on the demand. Everyone is responsible for own employees, everyone is working in a very responsible way, and whenever there is need for increased capacity, managing capacity, that is happening,” Bansal said.
Telecom services have been categorised as essential services amid COVID-induced lockdown and movement curbs across various states. Remote working and social distancing norms have driven data usage to new highs, pushing telecom operators to invest in network capacities.
Bansal said Ericsson is fully prepared for 5G deployments in India, backed by confidence arising from its global commercial agreements, and various live networks. 5G would bring a slew of opportunities for consumers and enterprise applications.
“We have worked across the globe in various countries, both with different kind of traffic profiles and different kind of spectrum. And we are ready with what is required for rolling out 5G in India,” Bansal said.
The company is optimistic about the 5G prospects in India.
“If you look at why are we so confident that 5G is needed for India, one is our consumer survey (indicating) the willingness for consumers to pay more for 5G services, as they look for robust and reliable connectivity layer,” he said.
The willingness to pay more for 5G would also translate into better Average Revenue Per User or ARPU for Indian operators.
“There is a revenue potential also which 5G brings, we have seen this globally and it is also relevant for India,” Bansal said.
A recent report by Ericsson has estimated that India can potentially have 40 million 5G users in the first year when the next-generation service is made available to them. According to Ericsson ConsumerLab report, consumers have shown willingness to pay 50 per cent more for 5G plans bundled with digital services, while they want to pay 10 per cent more for just 5G connectivity.
On whether the delay in spectrum auction timelines could dampen India’s aspirations for a robust 5G play, Bansal said, “We have seen the benefits of what 5G brings for consumers and enterprises. It is not about missing the bus, because it is an evolving technology. So, the basic needs for it are the availability of an affordable and adequate quantity of spectrum. Once that is available, we can start the rollout process”.
The exact timeline for the 5G rollout is for the regulator and government to decide, he maintained.
“We can only say, we are ready for deployments, whenever they start to happen,” Bansal said.
On the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for telecom and networking products, the company has said it is reviewing the policy and yet to take a final call.
Ericsson was the first telecom equipment vendor to start manufacturing in India, back in 1994, Bansal pointed out.
“Since then, from our facility in Pune we are catering to all requirement for supplies in India and also we started exporting both 4G and 5G gear to other countries. From a deployment and capacity of production point of view, we are fully prepared,” Bansal said.
So far as the PLI scheme is concerned, the company is “looking at the policy”.
“We will make a decision based on also the timelines for 5G auction, because when it comes to build up and capacity available in our manufacturing facility, we are okay for now,” he said.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) recently allocated spectrum to operators to start 5G trials, in the country. The trials will be conducted at various locations, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Gujarat, Hyderabad, among others, say industry sources.
Telecom operators have been allocated spectrum in 700 Mhz bands, 3.3-3.6 gigahertz (Ghz) band and 24.25-28.5 Ghz band across various locations.
The trial spectrum allocation came after the DoT, on May 4, had approved applications from Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and MTNL for conducting 5G trials without using technologies from Chinese companies.
The DoT had approved trials of 5G with Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and C-DOT. In addition, Reliance Jio Infocomm will be conducting trials using its own indigenous technology.