Consumers will be first adopters of 5G in India: Ericsson

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on October 28, 2020

Devices are coming up faster than expected, says Nitin Bansal, Head of Ericsson India

Telecom operator Bharti Airtel recently extended its contract with Ericsson for the deployment of a 5G-ready radio network. According to Nitin Bansal, Head of Ericsson India and Head of Network Solutions, South-East Asia, Oceania & India at Ericsson, 90 per cent of the equipment sold by the company here are made in India. The manufacturing facilities that it has invested in since 1994 are also scalable, he said.

In an interview with BusinessLine, Bansal spoke about speeding up 5G deployment, consumer demand, manufacturing facility ramp-up and data consumption trends post the pandemic. Excerpts:

How do you see the 5G market?

Globally, 5G is coming up very well and its adoption is faster than what we expected. There are devices available and launches happening. Ericsson has one of the largest deployments in commercial networks and we have a lot of insights on how it is being used across the world.

Also read: Ericsson announces Cloud RAN portfolio for increased network flexibility

In India, discussions are at a trial stage, and spectrum auctions are due next April. When it comes to trials, my view is: They would have made sense two years back. Ericsson was doing trials for three years and presenting used cases. The view now is that we should make spectrum available in India and then look at light deployments.

Do you think this is the right time to expedite spectrum availability?

Availability and right pricing of spectrum are pre-requisites. As far as the preparedness is concerned, we have to find a way out of it. What we have seen in the previous instances is that technology comes in first and then users pick it up. But, we should make the technology available and affordable.

Also read: RJio ties up with Qualcomm to develop 5G network

Is there consumer demand in India?

From a consumer point of view, our research report says people want 5G and, if their telecom operators do not provide it, then consumers will switch. On the industrial side, digitalisation is happening even in manufacturing and production processes. If people (companies) are to relocate their manufacturing here, then they too need to see how robust connections are.

In 2021, we do not think there will be a seamless pan-India deployment. It will evolve over a period. 4G will continue to complement 5G and it will be a robust fallback in areas where adoption of the new technology has not yet happened.

Who will be the first adopters of 5G?

First adopters will be consumers. Enhanced mobile broadband and fixed wireless access are the used cases. Again, since we need robust connectivity at home, we believe that this will continue for some more time. Then it will move towards industries. Of course, there will be some overlap. And devices are coming up faster than we expected.

Are telcos willing to invest towards 5G deployments?

Telcos are focussing on making their networks ready for 5G. Working with Ericsson also means that every radio that we are delivering to telcos since 2015, is upgradable to 5G. Investments they are making today will not go to waste.

How is capacity ramp-up happening for Ericsson?

Our plants are scalable depending on demand; they are not constrained by capacity. Whatever we sell in India, nearly 90 per cent of it is made here. We make sure that Ericsson is coming up with offerings suited for the country depending on the spectrum available. We are even exporting (essentially to South-East Asian nations) from here.

With Indian telcos announcing their own 5G equipment making plans, how does it impact you?

First of all, we do not consider all these Indian players as competition. Being a part of the ecosystem, it would be more of a complementary service offering. In terms of cost, we look at it from the point of cost of ownership (for a telco). It is about the value every operator gets out of each dollar spent. And on a comparative basis, we continue to amongst the most competitive equipment vendors.

What are post lockdown data consumption trends that you have noticed?

When there was a complete lockdown, we saw a 20 per cent increase in data consumption. I believe the trend continues with work from home being quite prevalent.

Published on October 28, 2020

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