Anand Bhaskar, managing director, service providers business, Cisco India and SAARC

Today, digitalisation and Industry 4.0 have become the norm. Thus, telecom service providers need to transform their network infrastructure to monetise digital platforms. Service providers must create network architectures that are efficient, agile and intuitive to leverage such opportunities. Companies like Cisco are helping service providers fast-track their transition towards digital platforms and adjust to the new normal. In an interview with, Anand Bhaskar, managing director, service providers business, Cisco India and SAARC, talks about the changing digital landscape, Cisco’s efforts for helping service providers meet their changing business needs and its focus areas in the enterprise domain. Excerpts…

How is India’s digital landscape changing? How is Cisco reimagining the internet for the digital economy?

One thing that has become evident in the past 19 months is that going forward what can be delivered digitally, must and will be delivered digitally. The demand for low-touch, digital alternatives in retail, banking, education, healthcare, entertainment, etc., is rising exponentially. As a country, we are set to become the centre of innovation and growth in the digital age, a decade in which Industry 4.0 will come to fruition.

India is at a significant turning point. 5G is around the corner. The digitalisation of industries can be achieved only by str­eng­thening and enhancing the infrastructure that is intuitive, open, service agile, and au­tomated. Globally, we are wor­king with lea­ding communication service providers and web-scale companies to design the bu­il­ding blocks for the “in­ternet for the fu­tu­re”. We have over 125 active engagements with global customers on 5G, and close to 50 service providers that actively test and deploy our 5G offerings – Cisco 5G Now solutions. We are partnering with them on architectural designs and providing packet core te­chnology. We expect to see a significant im­pact of 5G as the number of users and de­vices increases.

In India, we have partnered with Bhar­ti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio to help them get their networks ready for the 5G era and bring the benefits of the internet to more users across the country. Ov­er­all, we are bringing in technology innovations, including bandwidth, scale, density, energy efficiency, software modularity, open architectures with zero-touch and zero-trust networks to help the digital eco­system thrive.

How are service providers fast-tracking their journey to adopt digital platforms? How is Cisco helping them adapt their business to the new normal?

Today, telecom service providers are at the forefront of powering the gr­e­a­test digital revolution the world has ever seen. They have a much larger and significant role to play in this hybrid world. They have the ability to help people connect, access and collaborate in a seamless and secure manner. That said, they have a long road ahead to prepare the world’s networks for the ma­ssive and ubiquitous transformation taking place.

India’s telecom service providers are scaling up their efforts to transform into digital value and managed service providers and make 5G ava­il­able to everyone in India affordably. To capitalise on these new revenue streams, telecom service pro­viders ne­ed to improve and digitalise their back-end infrastructure, develop new skill sets, enhance customers’ digital experience, and continue to innovate at scale while ke­e­ping cybersecurity at the forefront.

At Cisco, we are engaged in 360-degree partnerships with all leading service providers to help prepare their networks for 5G by enabling an op­en, intelligent and secure network platform, enhan­c­ing their go-to-market stra­te­­gies, and en­suring greater returns on the­ir 5G investments. We are already working with Reli­ance Jio to build a first-of-its-kind 5G-ready network. We have also partnered with Airtel to launch India’s largest 5G-ready 200G internet protocol (IP) and optical-integrated network desi­gn­ed to enhance network availability, ca­pacity and scale. Cisco is well positioned to help service providers provide new off­erings for en­terprise clients in the 5G era, including managed software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) services, managed collaboration services, managed se­cu­rity services, and more.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted data traffic patterns in India? What role is Cis­co playing in enabling mobile network op­­e­rators to manage increased data traffic?

Due to the pandemic, people, businesses, governments, and communities have come to rely upon the power of connections mo­re than ever before. According to a Cisco report, 66 per cent people globally and 64 per cent in India (approximately 900 million) were expected to come online by 2023. However, with the pandemic cataly­sing the move to a digital way of life, we will likely reach these milestones earlier. The online population exceeded 825 million as of March 2021.

At Cisco, we are redefining the economics of mass-scale networking to im­pro­ve costs and outcomes for telecom and web-scale providers and provide efficient and reliable internet to power a more inclusive world.

What is Cisco’s strategy for the transport net­work that will facilitate the worldwide adoption of 5G technologies and delivery of applications?

The impact of today’s world is driving or­ga­nisations across sectors to turn to technology not just for efficiencies, but also for resiliency. However, digitalisation cannot happen without networks; the demand for bandwidth will only increase since the internet will be the core of everything we do. Therefore, the availability and speed of internet connectivity can greatly affect the quality of education, healthcare and eco­­nomic opportunities they receive, as well as access to critical public services.

The pandemic widened the digital di­vide and brought this urgent problem to the forefront. To connect the next billion users, we need to fundamentally change the economics of the internet so it will wo­rk for everyone, not just the privileged. We need to reimagine the internet for the future. At Cisco, we are committed to bri­dging the digital divide and powering an inclusive future for all.

We have been investing heavily over the past few years to bring the benefits that make Cisco a worldwide leader in core and edge routing further into the net­work. We are helping simplify the constructs of the internet with routed optical networking solutions aimed at collapsing IP and optical networks. With Acacia’s pl­ug­gable coherent optics, advancements in segment routing and ethernet virtual private network (VPN), and new Cisco Cro­sswork cloud capabilities, operators can build lean, efficient, easy-to-operate networks capable of supporting the levels of traffic expected with 5G.

What are the critical investment decisions telcos need to make in the early stages of 5G? How does Cisco work with telcos to deploy 5G-ready network architectures?

If 4G was about speeds and feeds, 5G will be about creating experiences and opening up a world of opportunities for telecom service providers. It will have new requireme­n­ts, customers, use cases and a myriad of co­nnection types. In this journey, service pr­­o­viders are seeking the most effective ways to handle the increasing traffic demands.

Building a 5G IP transport network with the right attributes will be a strategic asset for service providers as services evol­ve over the next decade. In addition, it will require investments in fibre, network densification and specialised base stations, whi­ch equates to significant capex invest­me­nts for telecom players.

We are focused on building the internet of the future through SiliconONE, op­­tics, and software and help customers migrate to 5G and Wi-Fi 6 through mo­bility, which includes mobile packet core, internet of th­ings (IoT), a control ce­ntre, etc., in addition to enterprise wireless technology and open radio access network (RAN).

At Cisco, we bring innovative financial solutions along with cutting-edge technology to telecom service providers. Globally, we have committed $5 billion in funding to help build 5G networks over the next th­ree years to support our customers in ac­celerating their 5G deployments.

How has the adoption of private networks changed in the past two years? How is Cisco enabling enterprises to build their own private wireless networks?

As companies begin to recognise the pot­ential of private networks, we are seeing a lot of interest in adopting them. Private networks are gaining traction around the world as regulators allocate more spectr­um to enable enterprises to build and ma­in­tain their own private 5G networks. This is a game changer for enterprises, es­p­ecially for manufacturers that need 5G capabilities to implement transformative applications for smart factories, digital transformation and IoT.

At Cisco, through innovation in cloud-based packet core, seamless business-to-service provider network connections, ad­van­ces in automation, and a trusted secure infrastructure, the road to a profitable mo­bile network has never been clearer. We are also working with providers, enterprises and industries ar­ound the world to help th­em understand how they can deliver 5G capabilities to private networks as simply as possible through agile, controllable and secure networks.