India’s telecom sector is going through a rapid digital transformation. A prominent example of this ongoing digital explosion is the exponential rise in the use of electronic wallets as well as the unprecedented increase in digital transactions/payments in the past few months.
This growing digitisation is redefining the opportunities and challenges for stakeholders across the telecom value chain. In a move to help the benefits of digitisation percolate to the bottom most level, the government is putting major emphasis on developing a high speed fibre backbone across the country. Operators, meanwhile, are busy working towards creating demand for high speed data services and strengthening their data networks.
However, as the country’s digital ecosystem gets built, two aspects that need to be ensured at both the government and industry level are good quality of service and network security, especially in the wake of the growing convergence of financial and telecom services.
The WannaCry cyberattack, which affected around 104 countries and paralysed hundreds and thousands of computers worldwide on May 12, may not have hit India hard. However, cyber experts are of the view that the unique attack could have sabotaged several computers of government and private companies due to the feeble cyber security architecture. Many experts believe that such attacks could eventually escalate and hacking groups could start targeting India as the country makes a push towards digitisation.
On the quality front, there has been growing concern about the high level of call drops, patchy network connectivity, differential charges for the same service, etc. While the government is making efforts to address these issues, the deteriorating financial health of telecom companies, brought on by the high competition levels, is restricting their ability to invest in quality improvements.
In sum, growing digitisation will provide an opportunity to telecom companies to rebuild their market position and create new revenue streams. It will also prove to be an important medium for the government to proliferate the benefits of digitisation among underserved sections of society. That said, it should be accompanied by the creation of a strong cyber security architecture to fend off cyber attacks as well as a reliable telecom backbone to ensure seamless network connectivity and good service quality.