Madhu Pandya, Senior Adviser, International Market Development, Ciena
In 2021 Indian mobile network operators (MNOs) pivoted to address the evolving connectivity needs of enterprises and individual subscribers. The communications infrastructure continued to play a crucial role in helping ensure business continuity.
Now, as India and the entire industry move closer to 5G launches later this year, we must reimagine networks to be more open and automated. Additionally, they must be more agile, programmable, easily scalable and flexible to deliver the anticipated digital experiences.
Automation is imperative for 5G in India
India stands to benefit immensely from 5G, which will facilitate several pathbreaking use cases such as Industry 4.0, smart cities, telemedicine, online gaming, remote surgery and more. A report by the 5G High Level Forum estimates that the cumulative economic impact of 5G in India can be $1 trillion by 2035.
However, delivering these use cases demands an ultra-reliable, super-high-speed and extremely low latency network. Legacy networks were not designed for today’s immersive and highly sophisticated digital experiences. Software automation will also play a huge role to help efficiently manage 5G network slices, enabling MNOs to address the particular requirements of different business verticals.
Network slicing is a crucial feature of 5G, which allows MNOs to address the different service level agreement (SLA) needs of different user groups. The requirements can be based on different latencies, speeds, and performance and availability levels.
Improving network efficiency and quality of experience with software-powered networks
Automated and programmable networks are inherently built on the foundation of software-defined networking, network function virtualisation and cloud-native computing. This is also required for managing end-to-end network slices of 5G.
Indian telcos will be using software increasingly to automate network management as well as to better leverage network assets. In addition, the growing dependence on communication networks has led to an increased focus on the quality of services and on delivering an exceptional digital experience. Another key benefit for Indian telcos is that software-powered networks have the capability to accurately predict network faults, detect them in real time, and quickly analyse and resolve any issues. It also allows networks to self-configure, self-optimise and self-heal, thus leading to reduced downtime and improved customer experience.
As Indian telcos prepare the networks for 5G, we will see all the ways that software can help build more dynamic, flexible and programmable networks.
Leveraging AI for improved network management
Across the globe, telcos are benefitting from advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud technologies to simplify network operations and enhance overall operational efficiency. Indian telcos have already started leveraging AI capabilities, and this trend will gather pace in 2022.
As volumes of data travelling over the network continue to grow, AI can help Indian telcos to collate and analyse the data to come up with actionable insights, which will help them develop smarter, data-driven policies and products to address the demands of the customers. AI, along with machine learning, is an enabler of advanced analytics, and the use of AI will continue to grow in Indian networks.
Living an edgy life
Indian telcos have a massive opportunity to leverage Edge cloud to support their upcoming 5G roll-out plans. MNOs can profit from acquiring the ability to dynamically allocate different cloud and network resources to meet specific SLAs for each service within and across their Edge data centres, and to access networks such as 5G. This, then, comes as an extension of 5G network slicing, allowing operators to deliver on the stringent SLAs from 5G mobile devices to the Edge cloud as per the customer requirements.
We have already witnessed new business models whereby service providers and hyperscale cloud providers work together to offer Edge cloud services across India. For example, Jio and Microsoft have announced an alliance to offer a detailed set of solutions comprising connectivity, computing, storage solutions and other technology services and applications essential for Indian businesses. Bharti Airtel announced a similar arrangement with Amazon. These new engagement models between telcos and hyperscalers will also come into play with the roll-out of 5G, creating exciting new opportunities for businesses and consumers alike.
As Indian telcos move towards 5G deployment, more and more data will need to be computed, stored and processed at the Edge. And, over a period of time, the Edge will emerge as a new revenue model for service providers.
Thanks to developments in the network Edge, 4G/5G buildouts and the continued shift to the cloud, 2022 promises to be an exciting year for the Indian telecommunications industry.