The second edition of the India Mobile Congress, IMC 2018, got off the ground on October 25, 2018. Its underlying theme was “New Digital Horizons: Connect, Create, Innovate”. The event, hosted by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the Cellular Operators Association of India, provided a platform for policymakers, regulators and industry stakeholders to engage in meaningful deliberations, building on innovative ideas and showcasing leading mobile technologies and products.
The mega three-day event was inaugurated by Manoj Sinha, minister of state (independent charge) for communications, in the presence of Suresh Prabhu, minister for commerce and industry and civil aviation; Ravi Shankar Prasad, minister for electronics and information technology and law and justice; Hardeep Singh Puri, minister of state (independent charge) for housing and urban affairs; and Aruna Sundararajan, secretary (telecom); and chairperson, Telecom Commission; and N. Sivasailam, former special secretary, DoT.
Highlighting the importance and progress of the prime minister’s Digital India vision, Sinha commented, “Digitalisation has emerged as the key driver for global economic growth, with the integration of data-driven technologies into every sphere of human activity.” He emphasised the role of technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), and internet of things (IoT) in the country’s digital transformation. Sundararajan also highlighted the pioneer efforts that are being undertaken at the policy and regulatory level for setting up digital infrastructure in the country.
The industry titans – Mukesh Ambani, chairman, Reliance Industries; Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman, Aditya Birla Group; and Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman, Bharti Enterprises, were also present at the inaugural function and concurred with the government officials on the role of technology in transforming India.
The IMC 2018 featured several informative sessions on topics such as the evolving regulatory landscape in the new digital ecosystem, enabling futuristic networks, connecting the unconnected, intelligent transport, digital identity, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), the IoT ecosystem, the emerging world of analytics, AI, next-generation devices, women in technology, future of enterprises, e-tail, health tech, Industry 4.0, m-education, value creation through digital marketing, blockchain, cybersecurity, open source technology, and 5G, among others. There was also a Global CEO Conclave, where industry leaders from around the world shared their views on the networks of tomorrow, emerging technologies, the power of content, and open source technology. Live demonstrations of 5G, machine-to-machine communications, IoT and other technologies were made at the event.
Broadly, 5G and how it would be launched, sooner than later, in India remained the key theme during all the three days of the event. Telecom bigwigs like Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited, as well as technology and network majors like Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei, Qualcomm and Samsung demonstrated live 5G use cases in the form of driverless cars and drone surveillance.
A highlight of this edition of the IMC was the presence of high-level ministerial delegations from several ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) countries. Ministers from the European Commission, Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal and Lao PDR led their respective delegations, and participated in plenary sessions focused on the specific needs, challenges and opportunities unique to the member countries of these regional forums. Several high-level delegations conducted bilateral meetings with their Indian counterparts, and discussed topics of mutual interest along with exploring the possibilities of strengthening cooperation.
The event was also noteworthy for some remarkable and critical announcements, which will pave the way for determining the growth of the Indian digital communications industry over the next several years. The Indian government announced the commitment of the industry to roll out 1 million Wi-Fi hotspots in the country by December 2019. Bharat Wi-Fi, a country wide common interoperable platform of 1 million Wi-Fi hotspots, owned and operated by telecom service providers, internet service providers and virtual network operators, will be rolled out across the country. This initiative will allow consumers to access Wi-Fi hotspots of any of the partnering operators.
Further, the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP), 2018 was also unveiled at the event. The NFAP, 2018 mentions freeing up of a total of 605 MHz spectrum in the 5 GHz band for wireless access services and outdoor radio local area networks, to meet the ever-growing appetite for data (from the current figure of 50 MHz since 2007). Several spectrum bands for short-range devices and Ultra WideBand devices have been made licence exempt, benefiting the public as well as the industry. According to Aruna Sundararajan, secretary (telecom), and chairman, Telecom Commission, “These initiatives provide an excellent launch pad for achieving goals such as Broadband for All, which are outlined in the recently released National Digital Communications Policy, 2018.”
Another interesting feature was the special focus on the evolving start-ups ecosystem in India. More than 200 start-ups marked their presence at the event, with their booths displaying ideas and innovations, that seek to leverage the potential of digital communications – in areas such as AI, integrated services, health care, pharma, security, safety, food, sports, social networking, travel, education and disaster management, among others.
The event marked the simultaneous release of 250 start-up applications inaugurated by the Indian telecom minister. The flourishing smartphone industry has opened up new windows of opportunities and the app industry is one of the front runners for tapping new opportunities. With people increasingly becoming dependent on mobile apps, the prospect of innovative and relevant apps being launched has become more real. Some of the apps launched at the IMC 2018 were ONGO Framework, Build4Us, Dalmia BestPrice, khabar aap kaa, Flock, Get Set Go, GenieTalk, Interperso, KONNECT, V-Cloakroom, KOMPASS PRO, ISOMETRIK, Ride Lord, Goldbin, cleaneety, Fridel, Road Inspector, Blood bank, Davaorder, No Food Waste India, Online Teacher training, Web Cycle, Cyanodoc Healthcare, Abbidyn, Knowmad.app, Delhi Blood Bank, Vaani, Indovators, Titration ColorCam (Light Lab, IISER Kolkata), Urban Yogi, WildWatch, Oniv, Street Buddy, Budget Travel, PayJal, The Community Warehouse, Seehat, Sutras, Healthol, Heuro, Ohire, Smart Cities Wheel, Voice Verso, MIHI, BlockMark, DisasterAid, Bigfix, Biztips, Seehat and Datacultr, among others.
The IMC 2018 saw delegation participation from 20 countries, with more than 300 companies showcasing their latest and best technologies, products, services and applications. The exhibition stalls covered a variety of interesting possibilities hinged around 5G, IoT, AR and VR, AI, robotics, smart city solutions, Fintech, health-tech, autonomous cars and cybersecurity, among others.
Net net, the IMC 2018 provided a glance into what the future holds for the stakeholders in the rapidly evolving area of digital communications. It highlighted the government’s vision of supporting India’s information and communication technology (ICT), media and telecom sectors, underscored India’s massive ICT innovation potential, and brought to light several game-changing technologies that will shape India’s digital future going forward.