Commercial 5G pilot networks in India are expected by 2021. Upstart wireless network operator Reliance Jio has the advantage to transform its telecom network to offer newer technology, said a Cisco Systems top executive responsible for the APAC region.
“By 2021, India should finally see 5G commercial pilots,” Cisco Head of Asia Pacific & Japan – Service Provider Business Sanjay Kaul told ETT, adding that most of the country’s service providers were already on the journey towards 5G.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has already asked equipment vendors— Cisco, Samsung, Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia— to partner with India service providers Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) to start 5G-based field trials as early as January 2019 and demonstrate India-specific use cases to smoothe commercial rollouts.
Cisco has enabled the Mumbai-based Reliance Jio to foray into the fourth generation (4G) technology-based voice over long-term evolution (VoLTE) services in September 2016, and the two companies are currently working together to develop content delivery through the cloud in a lower latency environment— a key 5G feature.
“Jio has an advantage with its greenfield network while others like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and even BSNL are transforming their network at a rapid pace,” Kaul said.
Earlier, billionaire Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Jio has said that it could launch 5G services within the few months after acquiring the required spectrum. Kaul believes that Reliance Jio and other telco incumbents would launch 5G-based digital services as the India government makes spectrum available at a cost bearable to the industry.
Cisco said that in a 5G environment, telecom networks network would truly become a service platform, and digital services uniquely crafted for small-and-mid-sized companies and consumers would help telcos to monetise their investments in network transformation and data center architecture.
“5G technology and architecture will truly provide service provider another opportunity to evolve from being a communication service provider to a true digital value player,” the Cisco executive added.
Jio also feels that telecom service operators should innovate to become a digital player in a competitive landscape.
4G and 5G networks would co-exist, according to Kaul, who attributed 4G for mass adoption of data and social networks, and added that 5G technology, unlike 3G and 4G, has technical features like low latency and high density.
Kaul believes that 4G is progressing with full throttle, and in a year’s time, it would be closer to 90% penetration in the country.
The incumbents— Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are investing to make 4G networks widespread while the youngest telecom player Jio that has built next-generation all-IP data network, has already penetrated more than 90% of the country. The public-sector BSNL is yet to get 4G spectrum from the government to compete with rivals.
“We have covered 90% of the Indian population with 4G, and we’ll soon reach to 99% of the country,” Jio president Mathew Oommen said.
“4G is showing good results, and I think all operators are really going for country-wide coverage and are accelerating their efforts,” Kaul said, adding that the time for 5G has arrived in the country.
The department has said that it would be ready to hold mega airwaves sale including frequencies in the 3300-3600 Mhz range, used to offer high-speed 5G services, in the second half of 2019.
The Narendra Modi-led NDA government is banking on the newer technology with the telecom department setting up a high-level 5G Forum to oversee 5G roadmap and rollout of services in tandem with matured markets worldwide.
The company feels that the newer technology would be unique in terms of creating and enabling mission-critical applications in various vertical domains such as transport, healthcare, finance, and security.
Cisco Systems has emerged as a leader in India’s network equipment market with a clear lead over rivals such as Nokia and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) in the Ethernet, router and wireless local area network (WLAN) segments in the third quarter of 2018, according to an International Data Corporation (IDC) market research report.
“Cisco continues to dominate the Ethernet Switch market with a 65.7% share in Q3 2018, followed by Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Huawei,” IDC said, adding that Cisco accounted three-fourth of the router market in the same quarter.
With 65.7% market share, Cisco took a huge lead over Hewlett Packard Enterprise (6.7%), Huawei (3.3%) and Nokia (2.8%) in the Ethernet Switch market in the quarter.
According to IDC’s latest Asia/Pacific Quarterly Ethernet Switch Tracker, the Q3 2018 Ethernet Switch market in India stood at USD 160.3 million (by vendor revenue) with an excellent YoY growth of 34.4%.
ADC and Layer 3 categories predominantly drove the overall growth with high double-digit individual YoY rise, while Layer 2 also saw a YoY growth, though only marginal. The India government’s push towards digitalization through upgrade of public infrastructure and multiple smart city initiatives; telecom infrastructure modernization drives and banking sector’s continual investment in network infrastructure to improve customer experience, is expected to drive growth in the coming quarters. The router market in India reached $214.9 million with an exceptional year-on-year growth of 140.4%.
The San Jose, CA based company also dominated the router segment with 75% share, while Nokia (11.2%), Huawei (7%) and Juniper (5.5%) trailed behind in Q3 2018.
Cisco has retained the top spot in the WLAN market with a 24.8% market share in Q3 2018, followed by TP-Link (17.3%) and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (15.3%).
“The Ethernet switch, router, and WLAN market are expected to grow in single digits in terms of compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for 2017-2022,” IDC said in a statement.
“Software-defined networking solutions are expected to gain prominence as the enterprise infrastructure evolves from human-dependent systems to self-servicing, fully automated and seamlessly integrated systems,” Ranganath Sadasiva, Director— Enterprise at IDC India said.
The market research firm, however, believes that government and enterprise digitalization initiatives would be expected to drive growth across product categories.
“Mobile workforce, anytime anywhere access to enterprise networks, security across multiple channels and shift towards cloud-based application workload are key drivers for investment in network infrastructure,” Dileep Nadimpalli, Research Manager— Storage at IDC India said.