The Indian telecom sector is setting global benchmarks with the extensive roll-out of 5G networks, the expansion of internet and broadband connectivity, and the development of a robust digital infrastructure. Telecom equipment providers significantly contribute to this growth by offering innovative, indigenous solutions. Tejas Networks Limited, a leading domestic optical and data network equipment company, designs, develops and manufactures high-performance products for building new-age communication networks. The company is focused on creating end-to-end, cutting-edge wireless and wireline products for telecom customers globally. In an interview with tele.net, Arnob Roy, co-founder, chief operating officer and executive director, Tejas Networks, talks about the company’s business highlights, upcoming opportunities, and future plans and strategies…
What have been the key business and financial highlights for Tejas Networks during the past year?
Tejas Networks delivered solid operational performance in financial year 2023 and closed the year with the highest-ever annual revenues in the company’s history, with an all-time high order book of Rs 19.34 billion. In financial year 2024, the company has maintained its strong business momentum through significant order wins in both the wireline and wireless equipment segments. We began the year by securing the largest wireline equipment order in our company’s history for supplying state-of-the-art access and aggregation routers to support Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited’s (BSNL’s) nationwide internet protocol multi-protocol label switching-based access and aggregation network. Earlier this quarter, we also announced our selection as the sole supplier of 4G/5G baseband and radio units for BSNL’s pan-India network comprising over 100,000 cell sites.
We continued to gain traction in international markets as well. A wholesale telecom operator in Italy has commissioned an end-to-end fibre network using our full range of optical networking and broadband access products, including gigabit passive optical network, packet transport network and optical transport network/dense wavelength division multiplexing. Our evolution as an end-to-end supplier of cutting-edge wireline and wireless products, with growing customer diversification, is enhancing our international visibility, leading to multiple global awards for technology and business excellence. In addition to being voted the “most outstanding company in India” in high-technology equipment and hardware by Asiamoney’s Outstanding Companies Poll this year, we were also conferred the prestigious “public company of the year” award by Light Reading in their 2023 global awards programme last month.
What opportunities does the expanding 5G ecosystem in India open for the company? How do you plan to leverage these?
Tejas has designed and developed end-to-end radio access and optical cross-haul products for global telecom customers deploying 5G networks worldwide. This includes a diverse range of high-power 5G radio units operating in multiple frequency bands with an advanced multiple-input multiple-output functionality, ultra-converged baseband products, and support for a full range of technology options such as wavelength division multiplexing, passive optical network with extended reach and packets for implementing 5G front/mid/ backhaul networks. Our recent wins in supplying 4G/5G radio access network (RAN), and access and aggregation routers for BSNL’s nationwide network will serve as a strong reference and position us favourably for the second phase of 5G rollouts in the country, both in the radio access and backhaul segments.
5G is opening up new opportunities for multiple industry verticals such as manufacturing, mining and utilities to achieve higher performance efficiencies by setting up cost-effective private cellular networks. We plan to work with our ecosystem partners, both within and outside the Tata Group, to deliver end-to-end solutions for these verticals.
“As a leading global economy, it is important for India to maintain full technological control over all critical technologies and products that are used in building telecom networks.”
What are your views on the PLI scheme for telecom and networking products? What initiatives are you undertaking to tap opportunities under the scheme?
As a leading global economy, it is important for India to maintain full technological control over all critical technologies and products that are used in building telecom networks. The Government of India’s production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for telecom and networking equipment is an excellent programme that is expected to give a massive boost to indigenous telecom research and development (R&D) and manufacturing in the country. In particular, the recent introduction of the design-linked incentive (DLI) scheme encourages design-led manufacturing in the country, which is critical to increasing domestic value addition, enhancing self-reliance and strengthening national security.
We are delighted to have received approval under the PLI/DLI scheme and strongly believe that the government’s forward-looking policies such as PLI, Preference to Make in India, the trusted sources mandate and the Telecom Technology Development Fund will collectively help the country achieve “Atmanirbharta” in telecom products in the coming years if effectively implemented.
“India is expected to witness a strong capex spend on telecom equipment.”
What role is Tejas Networks playing in the roll-out of BSNL’s pan-India 4G/5G network roll out? What are the other partnerships that the company has entered into recently?
Tejas Networks is the sole supplier of RAN equipment for BSNL’s pan-India 4G/5G network as a part of the Tata Consultancy Services Limited (TCS) consortium. The company recently announced the receipt of a purchase order worth Rs 74.92 billion from TCS to supply its equipment to nearly 100,000 sites across the country. As a part of this contract, we are collaborating with other ecosystem partners in the country (TCS and Centre for Development of Telematics) to deliver an end-to-end 4G and 5G stack.
In your opinion, what will be the emerging growth drivers for the Indian market?
India is expected to witness a strong capex spend on telecom equipment, fuelled by ongoing 5G roll-outs, a rapid increase in fibre-broadband penetration and large public investments to expand broadband connectivity to rural areas. The union cabinet recently approved a budget of Rs 1.39 trillion for extending BharatNet to every village in the country. In order to cater to the consequent bandwidth demand surge, both communications service providers and enterprises will continue to augment the capacities of their metro and backbone networks by investing in terabit-scale optical transmission, packet switching and routing equipment. Given the strategic importance of secure telecom infrastructure, the Indian government continues to place a strong focus on achieving “Atmanirbharta” (self-reliance) in telecom equipment – both for wireless and wireline segments. Besides accelerating growth in the domestic telecom market, this has also created an excellent opportunity for Indian companies like Tejas to gain economies of scale and capture a substantial portion of the approximately $200 billion spent annually worldwide on network equipment.
“At Tejas Networks, our vision is to become a global-scale, end-to-end telecom product original equipment manufacturer.”
What will be Tejas Networks’ growth plans and strategies in the Indian market for the next two to three years?
At Tejas Networks, our vision is to become a global-scale, end-to-end telecom product original equipment manufacturer. In order to achieve this, we are accelerating our investments in R&D to ensure that we build globally competitive products. In financial year 2023, we invested 28 per cent of our revenues (on a fully expensed basis) in R&D, while increasing our R&D headcount by over 60 per cent. We have significantly expanded our product portfolio, which now consists of optical and packet transport, fibre access, and wireless (4G/ 5G/satellite communication) products, which can be used to build an end-to-end telecom network.
Our strategy for the Indian market is to combine the strengths of our rapidly expanding portfolio with incumbency in all major public and private networks in the country to substantially increase our market share in these accounts. Moreover, as a leading domestic company engaged in the design and development of indigenous products with in-house R&D and intellectual property rights, the company also expects to play a leading role in India’s mission to become “Atmanirbhar” in the telecommunications sector.