5G is about making networks more effective; it’s the way forward in India: Ericsson

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on May 18, 2020

Nitin Bansal, Head of Ericsson, speaks about network behaviour and other telecom trends amid the lockdown

Telecom equipment major Ericsson maintains that the pandemic has put the spotlight back on the telecom sector. It expects that there will be greater need towards continuous network expansion. According to Nitin Bansal, Head of Ericsson India and Head of Network Solutions, South-East Asia, Oceania & India at Ericsson, among the interesting trends to have emerged during the lockdown is the increase in data traffic, led primarily by video conferencing.

In an interview to BusinessLine, Bansal spoke about network behaviour during the lockdown, operator strategies post Covid-19 and technology including 5G deployment. Excerpts:

How have networks behaved during the lockdown period?

There is definitely a peak in voice and data on networks. And there is a shift in the time when such peaks have happened. When it comes to voice, the peak hours normally were mornings and afternoons; data peaked around 7 pm onwards, when the surge happened through video traffic.

During Covid, we have a trend where data traffic has shot up. We see a spike (in data) throughout the day. In some places it is 20 per cent and in some, around 40 per cent. Workloads have shifted from office to home, and there is also a lot of social networking and interactions happening with friends and families over video calling applications. A primary reason for this upward shift in data is also increased video conferencing.

The peak has not changed for voice. But call durations have increased, say by a similar number when compared with data.

Any other major trends?

We have also seen reduced handovers — that is changing telecom sites — during the call. There is also a shift in traffic from office areas to residential and suburban areas.

And how have telcos and network managing companies like Ericsson reacted?

I believe the networks in India are pretty resilient. Which is visible, too. But then it is also about solutions for the Indian market depending on how the (network) loads and traffic move. It also includes incremental hardware and software additions, and squeezing out more from existing networks with better upgrades.

So will this lead to a scenario where Indian telcos will make more focussed investments on network infrastructure?

In my view, the new normal will be where we will have to live with Covid for some more time; and there could be localised lockdowns happenings. So there would be a time when employees will end up working from home at different times. And, in this new normal, data traffic in networks will definitely go up. And, it is also aligned with the projections we made at the end of last year. This means networks will have to be evolved to manage those traffic requirements.

So I do not see any reduction in network investments, as they will have to be prepared for carrying this extra traffic.

Indian telcos are already seeing an increased strain on balance-sheets because of AGR dues. Will this not have an impact on their future investments, especially network?

There is a need to invest in the networks. There is demand and this demand can be monetised. So telcos will have to find a way. Having said this, from our perspective, we will work on R&D to come up with better solutions, thereby ensuring reduced costs for telecom operators. It is something that will work across the ecosystem.

Will there be more focus on Indian manufacturing of network equipments?

We have facilities in India since the 1980s. Whatever is required in India, we make here. And then, depending on capacities and demand, (we) export these equipment elsewhere. There is also a possibility to expand (capacities at India units) if there is demand. They can be scalable. For instance, over a year ago we ramped up capacities here and started exporting, too.

We do foresee increased demand in India.

Will 5G trials be impacted by Covid?

We have been doing trials for the last two years and also demonstrated various 5G use cases for some time now. Covid is something that none of us understand. But we hope there aren’t delays in adopting 5G.

Technologically, 5G is actually about making the networks more effective. It is the way forward in India. Issues like spectrum availability and right of way for laying optical fibre also need to be decided upon.

Published on May 18, 2020

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