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.

Key drivers

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.

IoT connectivity

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.

Telco offerings

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.