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Which of the following technologies/concepts are likely to witness significant traction this year?
 

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Technology Watch: Recent deployments and emerging trends

March 09, 2017

Technology has become all-pervasive in the telecom sector, for both enterprises and consumers, with day-to-day tasks being increasingly driven by various technology tools. While technology evolution is changing consumer demand patterns, changing consumer demand patterns in turn are fuelling evolution in technology.

The biggest development that is driving technology evolution is the explosion in the number of connected devices, a trend that is likely to continue. Moreover, wireless communication has now become the established mode of communication. As such, bandwidth requirement has been increasing at a brisk pace. Increased network response time, improved coverage and higher peak speeds have led to a significant increase in demand for mobile data. To deliver the services desired by consumers/enterprises, the industry has been rapidly innovating its products and offerings to meet changing customer requirements.

tele.net takes a look at the new technologies being deployed by the industry and the emerging trends in this space.

SDN and NFV

Software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) have been on the radar of most telecom operators for quite some time. In 2016, interest in these increased further and there were reports of at least three telecom operators - Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Reliance Communications - being in talks with various technology providers for virtualisation of their networks to help them launch new products and services faster. Industry experts are of the view that SDN and NFV will witness high usage in markets that do not have a pre-existing wired infrastructure. In India, where wireline penetration is still quite low, this technology has immense use in increasing telephony and broadband penetration. NFV has the inherent advantage of scalability allowing operators to optimise their network functions and services as and when the need arises, thereby promoting greater efficiencies.

Another emerging application of SDN/NFV is in data centre operations. SDN and NFV are helping flatten data centre architectures and streamline traffic flows. As per Cisco, over the next five years, nearly 60 per cent of global hyperscale data centres are expected to deploy SDN/NFV solutions. By 2020, about 44 per cent of the traffic within data centres will be supported by SDN/NFV platforms (up from 23 per cent in 2015).

Cloud

While the applications and usage of the cloud are well established, some experts are of the view that the industry is witnessing the second wave of the cloud. In 2016, the Indian cloud market grew at an estimated 30 per cent to reach $1.26 billion.

The cloud is being increasingly adopted by enterprises across all verticals as more and more enterprises take the digital transformation route. Another key factor contributing to the rising uptake of cloud solutions is the government’s Digital India initiative, under which a host of programmes and applications in healthcare, education, e-governance, etc. have been launched.

Globally, too, the adoption of cloud solutions is on the rise. As per Cisco’s Global Cloud Index study, by 2020, cloud data centre traffic will reach 14.1 zettabytes (ZB) per year, up from 3.9 ZB per year in 2015. By 2020, traditional data centre traffic will reach 1.3 ZB per year, up from 827 exabytes per year in 2015. Further, by 2020, 92 per cent of workloads will be processed by cloud data centres and 8 per cent will be processed by traditional data centres. Workload density (workloads per physical server) for cloud data centres was 7.3 in 2015 and will grow to 11.9 by 2020. Comparatively, for traditional data centres, workload density was 2.2 in 2015 and will grow modestly to 3.5 by 2020.

Another key finding is that the public cloud is growing faster than the private cloud. By 2020, 68 per cent (298 million) of cloud workloads will be in public cloud data centres, up from 49 per cent (66.3 million) in 2015. By 2020, 32 per cent (142 million) of cloud workloads will be in private cloud data centres, down from 51 per cent (69.7 million) in 2015, and 59 per cent (2.3 billion users) of the consumer internet population will use personal cloud storage, up from 47 per cent (1.3 billion users) in 2015. By 2020, consumer cloud storage traffic per user will be 1.7 GB per month, compared to 513 MB per month in 2015.

The rise in public cloud uptake signals wider acceptance among enterprises of the benefits that cloud infrastructure offers and also an increase in the trust that enterprises are putting in cloud service providers.

IoT and M2M

Internet of things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications have been receiving significant attention for the past couple of years. While the technology is still maturing, more and more enterprises as well as end-consumers are warming up to these technologies. IoT acts as an intermediary tool that helps leverage information to boost efficiency, increase productivity and drive fundamental improvements in customer experience.

In India, the IoT market is being driven by the government, industry and start-ups. The Smart Cities Mission has already created immense interest in the technology. The telecom industry, too, has been actively advancing the use cases of IoT. According to Rajan Matthews, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India, “India is yet to witness a breakthrough of interconnected devices. A connected ecosystem will act as a catalyst in changing the future of mobile devices and enhancing their utility. More people will move to the 4G network in order to benefit from the services that IoT has to offer, making life convenient.”

By 2020, internet-connected devices are expected to number between 26 billion and 50 billion globally. IoT, through the interplay of software, telecom and hardware, promises to offer tremendous opportunities for many industries. IoT will drive new consumer and business behaviours that will demand increasingly intelligent industry solutions such as virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, and robots. However, there are certain challenges associated with the widespread use of IoT. Key among these are security threats and the non-availability of standardised industrial IoT platforms. Moreover, the additional complexity that IoT creates in a business environment and network architecture also needs adequate attention from the industry.

5G

The move to 5G has become almost inevitable with operators and vendors across the globe directing a significant amount of their research and development (R&D) efforts towards the technology. 5G has a low latency of around 1 ms, peak download rates of 10 GB per second, high data-carrying capacity (about a thousand times more than 4G) and low network energy consumption (about 90 per cent less than 4G), and is expected to change the way the global telecom industry functions. Apart from providing traditional voice services, it is expected to open up a host of data-driven services across industry verticals.

Several telecom operators and vendors across the globe are individually working towards setting up the ecosystem required for deploying 5G technology. For instance, China Mobile has recently announced its 5G deployment plan, under which it will select four to five cities in 2017, to set up facilities using the sub-6 GHz spectrum band for system verification and the development of pre-commercial prototypes for 5G. In the US, several operators have announced their plans to conduct 5G trials. These include AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile US and Sprint Corporation. South Korea and Japan, too, have taken steps to commercially roll out 5G technology. South Korea-based operator SK Telecom has signed an agreement with Ericsson to deploy 5G. Meanwhile, Japan-based operator NTT DOCOMO has begun trials, partnering with various vendors across multiple frequency bands to test the technology.

On the vendor side, Ericsson, Nokia and Qualcomm are quite active in the testing of 5G. While Ericsson has been participating in field trials with operators such as Verizon, AT&T, China Mobile and SK Telecom, Nokia has entered advanced testing phases of new 5G radio access products to be deployed by mobile operators around the world. Meanwhile, Qualcomm is involved in the development of industry standards for 5G. Samsung has also recently forayed into this space and is planning to partner with T-Mobile US to commercially launch 5G services in 2017. With many telcos around the world having already developed 5G architecture and initiated field tests this year, 2017 will potentially see the first wave of commercial offerings being launched amongst widespread trials of the technology.

In India, while discussions around 5G are still at a nascent stage, the industry and the government are taking initiatives to keep pace with global developments in this space. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has commissioned a research project for the development of the 5G ecosystem with an initial investment of Rs 360 million over a period of three years. Under the project, India has so far filed 100 patents, of which around 10 have already been granted.

Meanwhile, vendors such as Nokia and Ericsson have started discussions with telecom operators and policymakers to collaborate on 5G technology. The initial discussion among these parties revolved around operators’ interest and their preparedness for developing 5G technology, identifying relevant spectrum bands that could support it and establishing a regulatory framework for 5G.

E-band

Another upcoming trend is the use of E-band to provide broadband services.

E-band is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum lying at 80 GHz (71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz), which is currently the highest frequency used for commercial telecommunication networks. The technology can be used to offer gigabit data range data speeds. E-band technology is especially being explored as the next backhaul technology, given its high capacity. Compared to conventional microwave, which is currently used for mobile backhaul, spectrum in the E-band has a data-carrying capacity of up to 2 Gbps. With 4G being widely deployed by leading operators in India, the data backhaul requirement is expected to go up significantly. Conventional microwave technology is not equipped to handle such large data demands, calling for alternative technologies. While optic fibre has the required capacity, there are right-of-way (RoW) issues associated with deploying fibre. It is not a feasible or cost-effective solution for the many short backhaul distances due to the RoW issues involved. Thus, ensuring last mile connectivity in dense urban areas becomes challenging. Spectrum in the E-band is capable of achieving capacities close to optic fibre and has the advantages of wireless technology. Apart from last-mile usage, E-band can be very useful as a powerful redundant network to fibre in mission-critical data backhaul applications.

Currently, around 40 countries have licensed or allocated spectrum in the E-band for use by service providers. In October 2016, Huawei and Vodafone successfully reached a peak rate of 20 Gbps following the completion of 5G E-band testing. Given that broadband penetration in India is still dismally low, E-band can be instrumental in filling that gap.

Outlook

In the face of the massive explosion in connected devices and network ubiquity, the threat to networks, devices and the information stored and carried by these has increased multifold. Awareness regarding this threat has been growing among consumers and enterprises, and they are demanding more effective security solutions to manage the security threat. As such, the cybersecurity market in India is witnessing greater traction, with vendors offering specific point solutions as well as end-to-end security capabilities.

Nonetheless, digital transformation will continue. As per Vishal Agrawal, managing director, India and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, Avaya, “More and more businesses in India are undertaking digital transformation, thinking beyond only productivity. This shift in mindset has led the industry to witness increased investments in digitised solutions to propel opportunities for future growth. Also, in recent years, the government has introduced a lot of digital initiatives to transform India, which has given a further impetus to the information and communications technology industry to accelerate the transition to a digitised economy.”

Going forward, as enterprises turn to technology for efficiency and productivity improvements, and consumers demand better services, the industry will continue to explore different avenues of technological advancements. New technologies will emerge, while upcoming technologies widen their base.

 
 

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