In today’s hyperconnected world, enterprise-grade connectivity solutions have become paramount to enable enterprises to hasten their digital transformation. These solutions have become prominent especially post the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has prompted a shift towards remote working. Considering the plethora of opportunities that the new normal has opened up, stakeholders in the information and communication technology (ICT) domain are scaling up efforts to make the most of these new growth prospects in the enterprise connectivity space.
Shift to remote working
The shift to remote working induced by the Covid-19 pandemic has led enterprises to switch to advanced connectivity solutions. Today, solutions such as voice-over internet protocol, cloud-based software-as-a-service and secure access service edge are enabling enterprises to smoothly switch to the remote working model.
Increasing ease of deployment
Rapid advancements in the technology landscape have led to simpler deployment methods as compared to methods that existed five to six years ago. Today, most deployments are either self-managed or require minimal intervention and allow enterprises to access communication and collaboration tools, without adding much complexity to their operations.
Availability of global SIP solutions
The availability of global session initiation protocol (SIP) solutions, which help link enterprises with the world through a global internet protocol network offered by one supplier, makes the enterprise network simpler and easier to manage. Global SIP solutions offer scalability, reliability and flexibility to enterprises so that they can support multisite and multinational connectivity deployments. Further, they enable enterprises to efficiently connect various locations through solutions, that offer consistent quality of service and experience across the world.
Possibility of customisation
Another major factor responsible for the rising adoption of enterprise connectivity solutions is the increased range of companies offering customised solutions according to the needs of various enterprises. Since customised solutions allow enterprises to choose according to their needs, they are more flexible and cost effective.
Evolving managed services model
The managed services model is considered as a core component of the enterprise connectivity space. Under the managed model, the managed service provider (MSP) takes on, runs and transforms an organisation’s business operations and processes to increase its productivity and operational efficiency. However, from initially offering traditional managed network or application services, MSPs have now transitioned to providing managed videoconferencing, managed security and managed cloud services, among other things. Further, growth in multicloud environments, wherein enterprises heavily rely on one cloud while using the other sporadically, has opened up new opportunities for MSPs.
Private networking solutions
An increasingly large number of enterprises are realising that conventional choices for deploying wireless broadband connectivity through Wi-Fi or public cellular networks are not delivering the desired efficiency, control and security that they need to satisfy the burgeoning demands of their business operations. Therefore, enterprises have started exploring the idea of building private networks.
A private network gives the owner the ability to grant exclusive network access to people and devices authorised by it. Further, private networks promise a plethora of benefits, especially for business-critical and security-critical applications such as superior service security enabled by SIM-based authentication, greater control and management over network operations and better reliability, resiliency and predictability of services.
Several major enterprises have started deploying private 5G networks that have been customised according to their specific network needs. For instance, manufacturing firms are focusing on building 5G networks that can optimise the connectivity requirements of their industrial control equipment throughout their factories and enable real-time use of robotics and augmented reality (AR) for interaction with machines and industrial processes. Automobile major Mercedes-Benz has set up a private 5G network at its assembly plant in Sindelfingen, Germany, which is helping the company automate the quality control process by enabling automobiles to be tested on the production line itself. For firms in the oil and gas sector, private 5G networks are slowly emerging as the preferred network architecture since many of their facilities are located outside the range of commercial networks.
In India too, the concept of private 5G networks is slowly gaining traction. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, some of the initial use cases for private networks are likely to emerge in the automotive, ports, mines and aerospace domains. Indian IT firms are also looking at deploying private 5G networks. For instance, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is looking to build private 5G networks on its campuses over the next six months.
Internet of things (IoT) is another technology that has found multiple use cases among various enterprise domains. For example, enterprises in the logistics sector are increasingly deploying solutions such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, GPS and specialised sensors to carry out real-time tracking of shipments and consignments. Within healthcare sector, internet of medical things (IoMT) is enhancing operational and clinical efficiencies and revolutionising the healthcare service delivery. With the help of IoMT, professionals are able to track the progression and treatment of diseases, monitor patient health and modify their medication accordingly.
IoT is also making inroads into the retail sector. It helps retailers modernise operations and supply chain management as well as improve in-store marketing efforts of retailers and brands. For instance, Zara uses RFID across its stores for item-level tracking and replenishment, which has dramatically reduced the cost of stocktaking and reporting.
In a bid to supplement revenue from traditional business, telcos are looking at the enterprise connectivity space as a new growth avenue. All major telecom service providers in the country have been actively looking to tap opportunities in this space.
In this regard, Bharti Airtel rolled out the “5G for Business” initiative to demonstrate a wide range of enterprise-grade use cases leveraging high speed and low latency networks. As part of the initiative, Airtel is joining forces with leading global consulting and technology companies such as Accenture, AWS, CISCO, Ericsson, Google Cloud, Nokia and TCS to work with Apollo Hospitals, Flipkart and several leading manufacturing companies to test 5G-based solutions. These solutions will be deployed on 5G test spectrum allotted to Airtel and include use cases such as Smart Factory, Smart Healthcare, 5G-powered Quality inspection, Digital Twin, connected frontline workforce and AR/VR (virtual reality)-based use cases, amongst others. Moreover, the telco has the Airtel IoT platform, an end-to-end platform with the capability to connect and manage billions of devices and applications in a highly secure and seamless fashion.
Bharti Airtel has also been forging ties with global vendors to scale up its offerings for enterprise customers. Recently, Airtel and Capgemini announced a collaboration for bringing 5G-based enterprise grade solutions to the Indian market. Under this partnership, Airtel and Capgemini will bring together their experience in connectivity and 5G solutions, and system integration capabilities, to co-innovate a range of India-focused use cases.
Airtel also offers advanced connectivity solutions for enterprises based on Cisco’s software-defined wide area network technology. The solution enables businesses, large and small, to accelerate digital transformation for their customers and allow organisations to deliver applications to users with greater visibility, security and performance. Meanwhile, Vodafone Idea Limited’s (Vi) enterprise arm, Vi Business, introduced a variety of new postpaid options for its corporate clients, considering the new hybrid working model. Further, the telco introduced managed SIP service for businesses for which voice calls are a key business resource. Vi Business also partnered with Firstwave Cloud Technology to launch a new security offering, Vi Cloud Firewall, a cloud-deployed security solution for enterprises. Moreover, Vi further strengthened its IoT portfolio with the launch of integrated IoT solutions for enterprises designed to simplify and accelerate the digital transformation journey for enterprises.
Outlook and opportunities
Net, net, the adoption of enterprise-grade connectivity solutions is only going to increase in the coming years. This is especially true as India stands at the cusp of the 5G revolution. The advent of 5G and Industry 4.0 with various IoT and enterprise use cases such as immersive applications experience, and smart home, factory and public safety will only spur adoption further. In this scenario, telcos as well as technology providers should brace themselves for the upcoming digital disruption and devise solutions that can enable Indian enterprises to gain a competitive edge in the world.