Stepping up the telecom game
Voice and Data|November 2020
From virtualization to edge, cloud is becoming core to the telecom sector – helping service providers become more agile and platform independent
ANUSHA ASHWIN

Globally telcos are facing rapid changes in business needs and quite obviously the pandemic has further compelled them to face newer changes. Telcos are looking to quickly move beyond the role of connectivity providers and become business enablers for digital transformation, by rolling out industry specific vertical solutions. Today, we see emergence of a new ecosystem where the telcos are at the center.

Thankfully, most telcos in India these days are better prepared, as most critical operations happen conveniently over the cloud and are delivered on the edge. The industry is increasingly seeing more value in adopting a cloud approach to ensure business continuity across entire operations as opposed to just specific critical services.

So, the phenomenon with cloud is magical. Be it in customer facing or network infrastructure facing solutions, cloud is indispensable in today’s times, especially with the pandemic unravelling several new business demands. Most recently, India’s successful telecom operator, Airtel validated the importance of cloud through its strategic initiative – its entry into the USD 1-billion Indian cloud communications market with Airtel IQ.

Speaking at a press conference to announce the launch, Airtel leadership team highlighted that the company intends to leverage its cloud-based omnichannel communications platform to help brands like Swiggy, Justdial, Urban Company, Havells, Dr. Lal Path Labs and Rapido to deepen engagement with customers through timely and secure communication solutions. The omnipresent nature of cloud, here, seemed valuable and the telco seems focussed on harnessing its potential fully.

Similarly, when it comes to network virtualization and seamless operations, several cloud-as-a service providers have built an end-to-end architecture comprising public, private, hybrid, and edge cloud applications to service CSPs. Not to forget that India is at different stages of 5G trials requiring an edge-computing platform that can provide low latency, low cost, and guarantee privacy required for technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT).

While 5G is still a sometime away from being implemented in India, one of the key factors that will fuel this mass adoption is the rapid shift towards cloud as well as AI. It is certain, though, that both need to go hand-in-hand in order to make 5G a reality and to fulfil the transformation journey of telcos and enterprise in the next decade.

But, platforms must harness cloud to accelerate local 5G and more importantly cater to the development of an AIoT ecosystem (combination of AI and IoT) for advanced uses such as smart factories, smart cities, healthcare and so much more.

Beyond all this, consumers are gobbling data primarily for videos, OTTs, conferencing and what not. This surge is adding pressure on CSPs and urging them to work on strategies that can help them manage both OPEX and CAPEX. Quite obviously here, relying on cloud becomes a default choice.

The current National Digital Communication Policy (NDCP) mandates increase of broadband penetration in India and may lead to subscription numbers touching a billion very soon. And the players in the Indian telecom sector are also at price war, where data packages are a key deciding factor for each other to capture these growing markets. To win and cater to this billion, datacentric subscriber market, the industry has been making huge investments – mostly in cloud.

SAP, for example, has been investing heavily to become a ‘true cloud’ company. “Cloud technologies are critical when we are processing big data, when we are developing new business models. Given India’s demographic advantage – in terms of technology resources – we have a huge potential to leapfrog when I look at the whole cloud business,” said SAP Indian Subcontinent President and MD Kulmeet Bawa in one of the recently held virtual events.

Cloud for intelligent connectivity

The world is marching towards ‘intelligent connectivity’, a combination of high-speed, low-latency 5G networks, cutting-edge AI, and the linking of billions of devices through the IoT. These ever-evolving technologies will be made to work together to create new, immersive experiences for consumers, address challenges, and create opportunities for enterprises and industry and ultimately enhance customer experiences.

Operators across the globe are exploiting all applications to ensure that they achieve this intelligent connectivity to make the world better and respond to situations faster, particularly during a pandemic or a natural disaster. As 5G becomes more prevalent, telecos are transforming their networks into agile platforms that can efficiently scale to support growing volumes of data, voice, and multi-media services.

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