Amit Marwah, Head of Marketing and Corporate Affairs, India Market, Nokia

Despite the Covid pandemic, 2020 turned out to be a good year for the Indian telecom network and technology vendors. Automation, softwarisation and virtualisation emerged as key trends while telcos took steps to make their networks future ready. Network upgradation, especially in anticipation of 5G, will continue to be a key theme in 2021 as well. Amit Marwah, head of marketing and corporate affairs, India market, Nokia, shares his views on the performance of the sector in 2020, the key growth drivers, opportunities in the evolving 5G landscape and the future outlook…

How has the Indian telecom technology landscape evolved in 2020? What were some of the key business highlights for your company?

Unprecedented challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic pushed technology majors across the country to come up with creative solutions for smooth operations. On the business front, Nokia closed 100 deals in India during 2020. These deals came from telcos, MSOs, cable operators, ISPs and the enterprise segment.

In the FTTH and GPON business segments, the size of deals and the intensity of roll-out were almost twice when compared to 2019. Further, the transport readiness of telcos increased the scale of our business in India. Virtualisation is also picking up pace. In these three areas, deals are happening with much more agility as telcos prepare for 5G.

What were the key technology trends that emerged amidst the Covid-19 pandemic? Which of these will continue to shape the post-Covid world?

With Covid-19, we have realised the importance of infrastructure that can support a digitalised world. During this time, an interesting range of trends emerged such as remote working, robot deliveries, surge in video consumption, increased investments in remote healthcare, autonomous form factors and wireless factories.

Adapting to the latest technology will be essential for any business or country to remain competitive in the post-Covid world. We believe technologies like 5G, blockchain, AI, cloud computing, AR/VR and IoT will continue to shape the post-Covid world. For instance, consumers will purchase more goods and services online and an increasing number of people will work remotely, which is where 5G and AI will be extremely valuable in helping companies adapt to new trends.

What are your views on India’s readiness to roll out 5G services? How are you engaging with your partners on this front or contributing to the overall ecosystem?

5G is critical to India’s digital ambition. The constantly evolving need for higher speed, along with plans for smart cities, industrial automation, connected devices, etc., make it critical for both operators and the government to adopt 5G in a speedy and efficient manner. Considering that the technology is already proven globally and a plethora of handsets are available in the market, we believe 5G auctions should be done early after resolving all spectrum challenges.

Nokia has begun the production of next-generation 5G equipment at its manufacturing site in Chennai. Nokia was the first to manufacture the 5G New Radio in India, and it is now producing the Nokia AirScale mMIMO solution. The equipment is already being exported to many countries at advanced stages of 5G deployment. We have also collaborated with several operators like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea for 5G trials.

What are your views on the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat mission? How are you contributing to this mission? Do you have a policy/regulatory wish list on this front?

The government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative is laying the groundwork to develop Industry 4.0 capabilities and improve telecom infrastructure. Nokia is paving the way for a self-reliant India through its facility in Chennai that is India’s first Industry 4.0-enabled factory. It recently reached an annual production milestone of 4 million units. The factory caters to both domestic and international markets, with 50 per cent of manufactured equipment shipped to over 100 countries.

Nokia has its largest workforce in India. With the intent of developing an inclusive ecosystem driven by innovation, we have progressively invested several billions towards building world-class infrastructure in India. Our key ask for the government is to take initiatives to encourage the component ecosystem manufacturing to come to the country. Also, it would be ideal if the government and operators collaborate to create an ecosystem capable of leveraging 5G technology.

Going forward, how do you see Indian telecom networks transform to become future ready? What will be the key opportunities and challenges?

Going forward, we expect Indian telecom networks to become more secure, agile and capacity-driven. In this context, deploying private LTE will enable digital transformation across industries and pave the way for 5G. While there are a number of opportunities ahead, 5G is undoubtedly the next technology frontier in the telecom sector. Besides 5G, we see IoT, ultra-high broadband, fiberisation and green telecom becoming some of the key drivers of digitalisation in India.

Challenges like high spectrum pricing, right-of-way issues and lack of a fibre infrastructure could play spoil sport, but overall we maintain a positive outlook towards the future of the Indian telecom industry.