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Digital Drive: Government initiatives and mobile growth give a boost to broadband

During the past year, the government announced several plans and initiatives for digitising the country. The key among these were the launch of the Digital India programme, fast-tracking of the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) project and decisions related to spectrum auctions. As the government appears to be working towards finalising these plans, industry players are gearing up to meet the growing demand for data services by increasing investments in their broadband networks. Fixed line broadband The wired broadband segment has seen steady growth during the past year. The number of wired broadband subscribers grew from 14.54 million in December 2013 to 14.86 million in March 2014, and to 14.97 million in June 2014. As of June 2014, the market was dominated by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), which held a market share of 66.68 per cent with 9.98 million subscribers. The other dominant players were Bharti Airtel with 1.39 million subscribers and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited with 1.13 million. On the policy front, the execution of the NOFN project made slow progress. By August 2014, Bharat Broadband Network Limited, the implementing agency of the NOFN project, completed survey work in over 230,000 gram panchayats. It also issued technical sanctions to 181,000 of the gram panchayats surveyed. In November 2014, the government asked DoT to invite private telecom companies to help increase the pace of project execution. Under this regime, an independent project management consultant is likely to be appointed, who will invite bids from private players to handle cable laying, trenching and ducting operations across gram panchayats during the second and third phases. Further, the deadline for the completion of the third and last phase of the NOFN project has been moved forward by three months. As a result, the entire project is now slated to be completed by December 2016, instead of the previously set deadline of March 2017.

Ministry of Communications and IT approves projects worth Rs 60 billion under 'Make in India' programme

The Ministry of Communications and IT has approved Rs 60 billion worth of projects under the 'Make in India' programme. The ministry had received proposals worth Rs 200 billion under the programme. The ministry has further stated that there is a need for frequent exchange of views among the stakeholders including manufacturers, service providers, operators, industry and the R&D institutes to identify the shortcomings and ways to address the problems faced. India is at present the second largest smartphone consumer in the world after the US. However, the country is heavily dependent on imports and to address this issue, the Make in India programme was launched. Presently, research in the field of telecom equipment and solutions is being done in India, but intellectual property rights (IPR) are with other countries. The Ministry is therefore of the view that there is a need to make a mechanism to interact with the industry before developing technology or a solution rather than post-development.

Big Capex Plans: Operators announce major investments to drive data growth

Operators’ reluctance to invest in large-scale expansion and marketing of data services and promotion of mobile internet over the past two years has impacted their businesses. With a growth in data demand, it has become imperative for them to make investments in building data networks. Despite the high debt burden and policy uncertainty, these companies have prepared significant capex plans for 2013-14. The majority of the investments planned for the year will be directed at 3G expansion and 4G network roll-out. That said, the total planned investments are significantly lower than global standards. According to a report by Fitch Ratings, Indian operators’ combined capex guidance for 2013-14 is about 19 per cent of expected revenues, as compared to 30 per cent in China and Indonesia. This can be partly attributed to high interest rates and other financing challenges as well as policy uncertainty in the 3G and 4G segments. Issues related to intra-circle roaming in the 3G space, spectrum refarming and allowing voice over 4G have also contributed to delays in service provision. However, there have been several positive developments as well. The exit of several 2G operators has led to market consolidation, thereby reducing competition. Voice tariffs have been increased, and free minutes and discounts reduced. Also, subscriber churn under the mobile number portability mechanism has reduced. These factors have led to a decrease in operators’ expenditure on attracting and retaining subscribers. Instead, they are now focusing on 3G and 4G network expansion.

Ericsson India: Exploring new opportunities provided by government initiatives

Ericsson is looking at the potential opportunities arising from the government’s Smart Cities initiative. The company intends to leverage its expertise and experience on similar global projects wherein it has provided solutions for grid operations management and transport networks, among others. It also intends to offer smart metering, public safety and remote health monitoring solutions in India. Ericsson is bullish about the future of machine-to-machine solutions in India, which the company believes will help in achieving the objectives of its networked society vision that envisages connecting everything through the internet. It involves real-time connectivity among machines, electronics and devices through wireless technologies, including mobile broadband and cloud solutions. In this regard, the company is also exploring the concept of a “connected home” with its partners in India. Further, Ericsson is looking forward to the government’s “Make in India” campaign. The company already has manufacturing operations in India, and produces access and core network equipment as well as transmission modules. In 2011, it ramped up the facility’s capacity significantly in order to meet the growing market demand. Ericsson is now aiming to export network equipment from this facility.

Going Digital: Media and entertainment industry adopts new channels of content delivery

According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Confederation of Indian Industry, the Indian media and entertainment industry generated Rs 1,124 billion in revenue in 2013, marking an increase of 19 per cent over the previous year. While television continued to be the largest segment, a growing shift towards the digital medium led to the internet overtaking print as the second largest segment. The report estimates that the industry will reach Rs 2,272 billion by 2018, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 15 per cent. The figures show that media and entertainment is one of the fastest growing industries in the country. The key factors driving the growth of this industry are changing consumption patterns, the increasing number of middle-income households and the propensity of consumers to spend on leisure and entertainment. With the digitisation of content and platforms, delivery of content in multiple formats, increase in the uptake of smart devices and next-generation technologies, the media and entertainment industry can gain from the opportunities these offer. Many service providers are offering innovative solutions to help companies keep pace with these digital and cultural changes, and engage consumers through targeted content, delivered across traditional and digital channels. One noticeable technology trend in the industry is the adoption of cloud computing solutions. The cloud is an effective way of delivering content-rich services to multiple devices because it offers enormous bandwidth and storage capacity. It also enables media companies to cater to the demand for different video formats. While large enterprises might have the necessary expertise, for most small providers, offering such support can be a daunting task. The cloud can also be instrumental in analysing customer preferences and adding data capacity during peak workloads. Another key trend among these companies is the increasing use of big data analytics. The media and entertainment industry has moved to digital recording, production and delivery in the past few years. Consequently, an enormous amount of data is being generated through almost every online user activity. Moreover, as all other industries connect their products and services to the networks of media and entertainment companies, it further complicates data management. Big data analytics enables a deep understanding of the end-user, which makes the automation of a range of valuable business activities simpler and simultaneously improves customer experience vastly. Since better consumer targeting results in revenue growth for an enterprise, the need for collecting and analysing data is driving the adoption of this technology across the industry. In the Indian context, the move towards greater IT adoption by the media and entertainment industry has also been driven by the mandatory digitisation of content and platforms. With the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India mandating the use of a conditional access system, commonly known as the set-top box, for viewing cable TV channels in Tier I and Tier II cities, media companies have been quick to offer services on the new platform. According to industry experts, mandatory digitisation has helped broadcasters realise better revenues, and is expected to continue doing so in the future. The other key trends that the industry has witnessed include the growing adoption of mobility services due to the explosion of connected devices, the increasing usage of managed services to focus on core business areas, and a transformation from physical to digital infrastructure. Further, with the increasing uptake of smartphones and tablets, gaming and online content consumption is emerging as a promising source of revenue for the media and entertainment industry. However, an important prerequisite for leveraging these possibilities is a robust IT and telecom infrastructure. The success of the media and entertainment industry depends on this factor. Companies are stepping up their investments to upgrade their telecom infrastructure, which will translate into lower downtime, better productivity and increased efficiency. The challenge before them is to maintain stable telecom connectivity while gearing up for rapid network transformation.

Technology Gains: Role of ICT in improving TPDDL's operations

Information and communication technology (ICT) has played a key role in attaining efficiencies and improving the operations of Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (TPDDL). The company considered various factors while designing its communications network. These include budget constraints and time frames; applications and services required to run the network; bandwidth estimate of each application and service per user; number of users and locations to be connected on the network; and centralised and decentralised server architectures as well as main and backup centres.
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