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Expert Opinion - India Telecom Outlook 2020 & Beyond

The New Normal - Business in 2020 & Beyond

" We moved 5 years in 3 months ", says Mr.Sanjay Mann (President-North, East & South India), Reliance Communications.

Mr. Mann is very positive about the industry outlook and believes, that those who weren’t ready for quick adaptation with the changing environment will struggle.

Q.1. What has been the impact of COVID on the Telecom industry?

Covid accelerated the Network, Cloud and Tech with unprecedented and shocking G force. We moved 5 years in 3 months! As People started Work From Home it needed a lot of computing moving to IDCs and a lot of Bandwidth flowing from office networks (B2B) to IDC to Home (B2C). Result was a boom in ISPs and retail business.   Overall, for Telecom companies this compensated the loss. Upstream Bandwidth supply to local ISPs increased many fold. 

For us, we discovered that Work From Home after all was a blessing in disguise  for most of the employees . Team was a lot more responsive attending to work from home or travelling to service impact spots directly from their homes.

Q.2. How has the industry conducted business during this pandemic?

The Industry realized that 90% of the travel for business was replaceable with Video Calls which saved time and energy to do more and achieve more during the pandemic. Tech assisted part of industry saw a spike in productivity, It's now visible in the results of IT companies. Large organisations maneuvered very well and will likely come out bigger and stronger. Those who weren’t ready for quick adaptation with the changing environment will struggle.

Q.3. Is the industry embracing new technologies to tide over this situation?

Someone said Data is the new oil…needs to perhaps say, Data is the THE Oil. Digital technologies are rapidly changing the business as we have seen it forever. Computing IT assets are moving to public clouds, WANs are merging into the Internet and office LANs are probably not required in the Work From Home era. All necessary accessories (Firewalls, NMS, ERP, Payroll Systems) are all operating from cloud now.  A large part of the Industry is fast absorbing this change,  those who aren’t , probably , because they would soon be extinct.

Q.4. Has the consumer behaviour changed and will it be permanent.

Behavior is born of culture. Culture is driven by the corner office and that corner office at the global stage is taken by the fortune 1000 companies. And nearly all of them have allowed employees to work from home for the next 6 – 9 months. So the roll down impact on the feeder businesses shall be the same. We have adopted a new culture. Not all of this shall stick forever, even if 50% does, it would be a very different world. We shall see a phase of hyper localization after decades of globalization.  However Tech and networks will globalise and will become uniform all over.

Q.5. Is the consumer spending getting back on track?

Certainly, Looks like it's coming back faster than we envisaged. But we must be careful about pent up demand impact. Those who have survived are getting their salaries, have a lot more disposable income since they are not travelling, not making discretionary expenses… so they are spending on household goods, IT (for home) and furnishing etc. B2B buyers are conserving cash and don’t have immediate capex plans.  Hotel/Travel/ Restaurant/ BAR and fun industries are all shut.

Q.6. What do you see as a permanent change in the Industry ?

Change is Covid Induced, Tech Induced and Govt Induced. New networks shall be more consumer centric rather than B2B centric. New network investments shall be for the B2C segment. In large cities, FTH will take a back seat in favor of 5G. Due to regulatory issues, Industry is moving towards duopoly. Corporates will mostly pay for the fiber that they will need. There would be lesser competitive investments moving forward. There would be a large retail ISP industry powered by Jio. For B2B, we shall see a rise of operator neutral SD WAN operators. ISPs will rise in power, 2 to 3 ISPs in every state.


“The views expressed by the interviewee are their own and may not necessarily represent views of employers and partners associated with the interviewee”.

Ekaga's Point of View

India is undergoing a phase of disruption and is expecting to witness a massive digital transformation over the next few years, with currently being the world’s second-largest telecommunications market with a subscriber base of 1.20 billion and has registered strong growth in the last decade and half. 

The industry is all set to drive larger mesh of wireline communications and wireline broadband, enhance tower density and fiberisation, and also aid the proliferation of fibre-to-the-home connections. The Indian Mobile industry is expected to create a total economic value of $217.4 bn by 2020.

Also, the next-generation technologies such as 5G, Smart cities, IoT (Internet of Things), will open up new avenues in telecom infrastructure. Frictionless adoption of IoT services and applications in the industry will give a boost to emerging technologies and the network ecosystem will undergo a complete transformation. 

This 74th Independence Day Prime Minister of India announced that 600,000 villages will be connected through the Internet in 1,000 days.

The Indian Telecommunication market will witness rise in mobile-phone as well as fixed line penetration which would add 500 million new internet users in India, creating opportunities for new businesses.

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