04 Feb 2023

From 5G to AI: How Technology is Driving the Growth of Telecommunications

From 5G to AI: How Technology is Driving the Growth of Telecommunications  

India has become the fastest-growing economy in the world. In a recent report, the World Bank stated that India's economy is anticipated to grow at the quickest rate among the seven largest EMDEs, even though this growth is forecast dropped to 6.9% in FY23 and 6.6% in FY24. Despite the looming risk of global recession, India seems largely unfazed in its pursuit of greatness. On the heels of this ambition is the proliferation of the telecommunications sector within the country. The scope of coverage of telecom has grown multi-fold to incorporate aspects of manufacturing, services, and integration of software thereby seeding itself as an essential component in almost all new-age technologies.  

The biggest talking point has to be 5G. All major carriers in India have implemented 5G nationally. The government’s focus on 5G was evident in the recent fiscal budget submitted by the finance minister. New labs are being created to allow R&D in 5G, AI, and other telecom use cases. The affordability of 5G smartphones has also enhanced with entry-level devices costing as low as INR 10,000. The most popular smartphones over the last few years are 5G enabled, and quite frankly, this segment was always leading the 5G consumer wave. 

The integration of software in telecom has shifted my perspective on telecom a lot. Traditional methods such as physical hardware provisioning, manual configuration, and dedicated hardware for each service or application are being replaced by virtual networks. By divorcing network services from the underlying hardware, this technology enables the virtual provisioning of complete networks through software. As a result, physical network resources such as switching, routing, firewalling, load balancing, virtual private networks, and others are transformed into software-defined offerings that can be delivered more efficiently. 

Another intervention aimed at enhancing efficiency and responsiveness is edge computing. It brings processing power and data storage closer to end users or devices which generate and consume data, allowing faster data processing. In addition, latency is reduced, and the amount of data that needs to be transmitted to centralized data centres are also reduced. The lowered cost will be especially useful for IoT where connected devices generate vast amounts of data, and the demand for real-time processing and low-latency applications is high. By moving computing resources to the edge or consumer, organizations can better manage, process, and analyse data, and deliver new and innovative services to their customers.  

The deployment of fibre optic networks is set to continue as rural connectivity demand is increasing.  India is expanding its fibrization to over 35 lakh kilometres, as per an industry body of telecom infrastructure providers, in order to facilitate 5G networks, edge data centres, and small cells by 2025. 5G holds the promise of driving economic growth and creating job opportunities in India, connecting both urban and rural populations.  

IoT devices and applications like smart cities, smart healthcare, utilities and energy, smart manufacturing, real estate, transportation and logistics, governance, and retail will continue to grow, leading to an increased demand for reliable and secure connectivity. The use of IoT technologies improves telecom companies' power efficiency and allows them to manage millions of connected devices more efficiently. International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that there will be 41.6 billion IoT devices by 2025, capable of generating 79.4 zettabytes (ZB) of data. The need to modify technology to allow devices to handle more complicated operations, find innovative ways to reduce power consumption, and enable larger numbers of "things" to be connected is constant as the industry grows and advancements are achieved. 

AI and ML will play a significant role in automating various processes in the telecom industry. It will be leveraged to improve network efficiency and customer experience, automate network operations, and enable predictive maintenance. The global market for artificial intelligence in telecommunications, which was valued at $1.2 billion in 2021, is anticipated to expand to $38.8 billion by 2031, at a CAGR of 41.4%. India’s artificial intelligence (AI) market is expected to witness a growth of 20% over the next five years. Given the increasing number of connected devices, sensitive information being transmitted over networks, and also the increasing threat of cyber-attacks, cybersecurity will be a top priority for telecom companies in 2023 with a focus on securing telecom networks and ensuring the privacy of customer data.  

I am fascinated by how immersive content has a strong presence across domains like digital marketing, education, and other related services. VR and AR will become more widely adopted, driving demand for high-speed, low-latency networks that can support real-time virtual environment generation to offer a hyper-immersive virtual experience. The National Drone Policy and Digital Sky Platform are aimed at expanding the offerings around drone technology. Telecom is part and parcel of the connected drones which will be used as extensions of human resource to navigate difficult terrain, and play a pivotal role in terrain mapping, agri-tech solutions and remote surveillance. 

I have spoken a lot about the push for technological advancements and innovation. However, one thing that holds equal importance to this is the expansion of the workforce responsible for executing these initiatives. We have to give equal importance to the growth of the people employed in our telecom industry to ensure their aspirations are met. The demand for telecom workers is increasing across the board with 5G itself showcasing a 28% gap in demand-supply. We at Telecom Sector Skill Council have enabled a framework that incorporates the government, telecom industry, and academia to align the best talent to the industry. This talent is cultivated from the ground up across both urban and rural youth to give equal opportunity for the youth to shine and become ambassadors of India to the world.  

I am a staunch proponent for the equality of opportunity to all. We are sitting on a goldmine of bright young talent and our industry can offer them a better life both personally and professionally. I am indebted to this opportunity to serve the young minds of our great nation to overcome our current challenges and emerge as leaders in the space of telecom and human resource.  

Related Content