By Kaustav Sengupta, Senior Vice President – RAN, Sales Head (CALA), TEOCO
Voice & Data

The most recent advancement in wireless connectivity, fifth-generation or 5G provides greater capacity, coverage, and faster response times. Although 5G has several advantages over the previous 4G cellular wireless connectivity, it still uses the same basics to interact with end user devices.

PM Narendra Modi on October 1 introduced 5G services in the country, which claims to deliver extremely fast mobile internet. 5G services are planned to be available in 13 key cities in its first phase including Gurugram, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Gandhinagar, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, Chennai, Jamnagar, Pune, Delhi and Mumbai.

Two major telecom companies in the country, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel have already introduced 5G networks in several cities. As India stands on the cusp of a telecom revolution, Mr. Kaustav Sengupta, Senior Vice President – RAN Line of Business and Sales Head Central & Latin America (CALA), TEOCO Corporation shared his expert views on the same with Voice and Data. Here are the excerpts from the interaction.

Do you feel India has created or is creating an acceptable 5G ecosystem to enable the effective and efficient implementation of 5G technology?

Kaustav Sengupta: In essence, any new access technology is dependent on the development of an adequate ecosystem for its initial survival and later to thrive in it. India’s communication service providers (CSPs) are in full swing to roll out the necessary 5G network infrastructure, with possibly the widest availability of spectrum globally, from sub-GHz to the higher end of 5G approved bands. The availability and penetration of 5G handsets in the topmost smartphone segment have seen a significant growth over the last few quarters. There’s also strong encouragement from the government and regulatory framework in terms of monetization of the 5G infrastructure in the shortest possible time.

All these initiatives are expected to yield a strong growth for 5G as a technology in India through mass adoption over the next 18-24 months. Enterprises hopefully will invest in private 5G which will help automation and smoothening of supply chains, which should position India as a leader in the global market for its products and services. Government support is also high for these initiatives. This is, however, just the beginning and the hope is these initiatives will continue in the mid- to long-term to bear the desired outcome.

TEOCO equips CSPs with tools that can support them in their 5G journey. At TEOCO, we have been working to develop 5G network engineering and assurance requirements since 2015 when we joined the University of Surrey’s 5G Innovation Center as a founding member. Since then, we have also led award winning TM Forum Catalysts on 5G and taken an active part in initial 5G projects with system integrators, NEP vendors and service providers globally.

Given the enhanced features of 5G, it is also expected that a number of security-related vulnerabilities may surface once the technology is implemented.

Kaustav Sengupta: Security is key at various levels and has to be managed all the way from Physical Layers to Application Layers. While the country takes a leap of faith and transforms itself into a digital economy, we have to be cognizant of the fact that services have to be reliable and secure. Some might want to call it an overhead as it will add to the cost of doing business, but security can’t be overlooked.

Digital and cyber security must be integrated at various levels to protect individuals/private citizens, infrastructure, financial institutions, government institutions, and others. On the upside, this will emerge as a new industry which will generate new jobs and possibly IPR (intellectual property rights) and services that India can use for itself as well as for export, certainly a key new opportunity area. A few new-age companies in the West are already investing heavily into security, with USA and Israel being leaders today.

At TEOCO, all our products come built-in with enhanced security features that are certified by independent auditors.

How long do you think will 5G technology take to make the leap, considering all the physical obstacles including greater reach, fibre, and financial feasibility for both service providers and users?

Kaustav Sengupta: Historically, we’ve seen in India that obstacles are automatically addressed by the market forces that play out over mid- to long-term. From the present level of rollout momentum in the Indian market, it can be seen that a significant portion of CSP revenues is likely to be realized through 5G offerings over the next couple of years. For existing and new CSPs, 5G technology will open new markets, applications and industries. Some of these providers may choose to leapfrog into 5G and be at par with others, the end result will be same—it will be the consumer who will benefit.

This will give India the opportunity to innovate and not just rely on external legacy OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to bring “boxes” and roll out. In this space “Make in India” is a good initiative that has helped local young industries and startups to grow and not be disadvantaged against international competition. India is one of the world’s largest markets and is highly price sensitive. It is one of the best places for new companies to innovate, build and sell. This will set them up for a successful venture in international export markets as well.

Due to the market needs and global demand, TEOCO has already invested in upgrading its products such as ASSET (a planning portfolio designed to deliver cost-effective high performance networks for 2G/3G/4G and 5G); MENTOR (a GIS-based solution leveraging network measurements and geolocation algorithms to deliver advanced network troubleshooting, optimization, and subscriber experience analytics); SmartCM (a configuration management and site integration tool); and Helix (a service assurance solution that helps maintain the highest quality of service and foster new 5G revenue streams).

Do you think the weak financial standing of certain Indian operators affect the 5G approach?

Kaustav Sengupta: Indian operators participated in the recent spectrum auction very prudently. Post-auction, all of them have a wider choice of spectrums to not only address 5G applications but to also build on the foundation of previous technologies, from the perspective of strong infrastructural and market presence. This is an opportunity for CSPs to invite financial partnerships with other companies—Indian or international—to play in this market. As I mentioned before, India is a big market and is highly lucrative for global retailers.

Do you think partnering with trusted telecom Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) as needed by recent Indian regulations has posed a challenge?

Kaustav Sengupta: I think this addresses two issues–national security and supply chain reliability. This is also a trend globally. Most western countries are of the opinion that telecom is a core sector. As it interfaces with many critical industries such as information technology, banking and financial services, personal and institutional privacy must be protected at any cost. Hence CSPs go with trusted OEMs who are well aware of national security and IP protection standards. TEOCO’s position is aligned on this since it’s a matter of national security.

One fallout of national security concerns and certain geo-political situations is that some of the OEMs are being “barred” from accessing latest chip technologies. This, unfortunately, will impact timely supply of OEM equipment, which will in turn affect reliability of the supply chain. India cannot bet its future on such OEMs.

Prior to 5G, the focus for RAN was placed on coverage, capacity, and minimizing interference. No one thought about designing the RAN to reduce latency do you think Designing, planning, and optimizing 5G networks will be highly complex?

Kaustav Sengupta:Greater sophistication of access technologies and a shift towards the higher side of the radio spectrum has exponentially reduced the room for error over a period of time. General usage of telecom services has moved from connectivity-driven service offerings such as voice to applications including video-streaming where parameters for customer service assurance are distinctly different. It is no longer KPI-driven network optimization at the air-interface level that would guarantee adequate customer satisfaction. Complexity arises at every stage of network lifecycle in terms of planning, optimization, and operations, more from stringent requirements of the prevalent applications than due to a more advanced access technology like 5G.

This is where custom-built tools and processes come into play, backed by a specific set of specialized skillsets. As TEOCO we have solutions and SMEs who leverage this mix on a global basis, mostly delivered from India. TEOCO products namely ASSET and MENTOR addresses these issues and challenges in the most appropriate manner.

With 5G services rollout on the anvil, which industries in your view benefit majorly with 5G technology?

Kaustav Sengupta: India’s focus initially will be to offer a ubiquitous communication infrastructure, in general, than to focus on any specific industry. Primary impetus will be to tap into the immense potential of areas such as smart cities, public health, e-governance, digital lifestyle and to some extent rural banking.

An area to watch out for where India is concerned will be the use of GIS data to offer 5G edge-computing capabilities to large industries. TEOCO products namely ASSET Radio, ADM (ACP) and ASSET Backhaul are designed for such networks.

The rapid march-of new-age technologies has triggered a talent demand but at the same time with every new technology the supply –demand gap of skilled manpower is increasing. How in your view should the Telecom industry be dealing with this gap?

Kaustav Sengupta: The challenge faced by the industry in terms of skilled manpower is two-fold. There is certainly a shortage of adequate talent for immediate deployment. More critically, however, skills required from an individual in the forefront of roll-outs are also different. They need to offer an acumen covering a wider set of domains than before.

We will see an increasing adoption of the ‘outsourced’ model from CSPs to meet their immediate need. When major OEMs will naturally gravitate towards their core areas of strength, a whole ecosystem of companies with specific strengths in relatively narrow specialization will try to fill the gap. TEOCO’s technical RAN Consulting & Services Practice is a key solution to these challenges.

Click here to view the article on Voice & Data