I recently interacted with Mr Sandeep Sudeep, NEC India's Telecom Head. Mr Sudeep shared a lot of insights about India's readiness for the 5G trials and related things about the next-generation connectivity technology.
Q1 - What Is Your View on India’s Readiness to Conduct a Nationwide 5G Tech Trial?
It is a good idea given that 5G is new. It is important to validate 5G business cases/used cases as well. With multiple OEMs in active discussion, India is ready to run a nationwide tech trial. Needless to say, the operator needs to move judiciously in this regard where the primary objective to test 5G applicability is evaluated.
India is a unique market for telecom solutions compared to the western world. Each location is different in terms of demand density and infrastructural capabilities, and it is even more complicated when it comes to addressing latency challenges and uniform deployment between rural and urban belts.
We need to work in tandem with the telecom operators and service providers to build awareness and knowledge on the technology and existing deployment models to come up with agile processes to accommodate the 5G tech trials. As per the Government mandate, the trials need to address both rural and urban belts, and the infrastructural readiness for each segment varies incredibly.
5G is a disruptive technology, and it requires innovative platforms to deploy it optimally for all geographies. The solution to addressing the infrastructural limitations needs to be creative and innovative enough to allow exponential scaling up at cost-effective rates.
The pandemic has accelerated digital adoption across verticals with no discrimination of B2C vs B2B. Enterprises, as well as end consumers, are in equal demand of high-speed connectivity, with virtual setups being the norm. Thus far, we have managed to keep the connectivity uninterrupted to an extent even though the demand and traffic surge multiplied manifold overnight. This was possible due to the seamless 4G deployment that happened with due diligence. Likewise, for 5G, we need to be prudent to use newer methods and diligent trials to make sure that India benefits from this disruptive technology that can catapult the country into heightened levels of uber connectivity.
At NEC, we are optimally positioned to address projects of this magnitude with our global expertise that covers varied demographics. We believe the future of 5G is better off being a cloud-native technology, and keeping the ecosystem open will catalyse innovation and adaptations further. We need to work closely with the operators and understand their existing infrastructure and operational orchestration capacity to provide the most viable and profitable strategy to reap the benefits of a highly disruptive tech like 5G.
Q2 - What, According to You, Is the Condition of India’s Current Infrastructure and Capabilities and the Best Practices That Can Be Deployed to Make This Optimal?
Good fiber/Microwave connectivity, availability of 5G use case, and a lot of learning from the global environment to bring optimality. We need global best practices; we need the active involvement of OEMs/ operations and application providers.
India is a rapidly growing market. Coupling the surge in B2C demand with the hybrid model of workspaces that will be the norm of the post covid world, India has a wide-open market for deploying state-of-the-art tech like 5G. Addressing this in a two-pronged manner, let us look at our current capability and where Indian operators are. From a capability point of view, any vendor who has access to an end-to-end stack would be better positioned to address the open market.
However, any operator in India currently will have access to the basic elements that comprise an end-to-end stack. What is lacking would be the capability to identify your core vendor and devise a bespoke solution that plays up to your current capability and further enhances your areas of lacking.
NEC India is currently focused on developing the telecom sector, including the deployment of Open RAN and 5G solutions to Indian telcos through the open network ecosystem. We have recently opened a CoE in Chennai that caters to 5G technology developments and deployment.
5G necessitates extremely high capacity backhaul in order to deliver the bold promise of high speed/low latency that makes up 5G. NEC is well geared to bring high-capacity E-Band microwaves. Furthermore, we are also equitably positioned to cater to the OSS/BSS space supported by NEC’s market-leading Netcracker’s OSS/BSS solutions.
Q3 - Being a Frontrunner in 5G Deployment Globally, What Has Been NEC’s Experience in Understanding the Requirements for a Seamless Rollout of the Technology, Especially in a Developing Market Like India Including Rural and Urban Belts?
NEC has a fair understanding of India’s demographics and also societal needs through multiple government projects. India is just ready for the 5G wave because 4G has seen massive growth, and it has led the path to 5G. Video traffic is growing multiple folds, and so is IOT Growth. With sectors like education, hospitality, industrial automation set to use high capacity speed, India is ready for 5G.
5G is the next big disruption that will put India in the trajectory of complete digital transformation. With the Department of Telecom now allowing the operators 5G tech trials across the rural and urban belts in India, the industry is going to be the focal point for both telcos and India Inc alike. As far as the capability for a large-scale deployment is concerned, the infrastructure and ecosystem are already created. Any operator who is ready for the deployment in terms of their own internal business justifications can partner with NEC for an equitable run.
The statement by DoT clearly mentions that 5G trials will be conducted in both rural and semi-urban settings as well to ensure nondiscriminatory deployment of 5G technology.
These mandates can be easily followed by following an open ecosystem model for the technology. It cuts down on the initial infrastructural setting up costs and leaves a wider space for easy scaling and mass adoption. Being a frontrunner in 5G deployment globally, we understand the requirements for a seamless rollout of the technology, especially in a developing market like India. The creation of an open architecture over a legacy infrastructure in accordance with a multi-vendor industry will serve as the first step towards India’s 5G dream.
To further augment our work in this domain, NEC has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Rakuten Mobile to promote Open RAN in global telecom markets. NEC is already providing 5G radio units (5G RU) for Rakuten Mobile’s fully virtualised cloud-native mobile network in Japan.
Under the new MoU, Rakuten Mobile and NEC will expand upon their domestic collaboration to provide Open RAN systems (4G and 5G radios and engineering services) aligned with O-RAN specifications for global mobile telecommunications markets. This MoU is expected to empower both NEC and Rakuten Mobile to contribute in an even more comprehensive way to the opening and virtualisation of cellular networks around the world.
Q4 - Your View on Ramping Up Security and Privacy Protection Ahead of 5G?
This is one area NEC has worked in historically. We do realize that with millions of IoT transactions, security will be of massive importance. NEC security framework involves 4 different facets, i.e. security management, security as digital service, cloud security, and also network security. We imagine that healthcare, manufacturing, and logistics, among other verticals, will have massive security needs.
One of the core components of the 5G open RAN structure is TELCO CLOUD involving tons of virtualisation. We need to bring all the best practices of security from the pure IT domain and further enhance it for 5G telecom deployments. By natural deduction, 5G should have tighter security policies and encryption esp. for Indian demographics.
5G is a technology that should be deployed in a cloud-native format. Naturally, the level of security required to adopt and deploy high-end tech stacks of this magnitude exclusively on a shared and open ecosystem will require a robust, secure network that can enable seamless transactions across geographies. It is imperative that we ramp up security and privacy protection before the technology goes mainstream.
The recent cybersecurity and data breach cases throw light on the current Indian scenario and highlight the need for data privacy laws and stringent regulatory measures to ensure systemic and standardised security checking protocols.
In order to make this industry more secure and innovation-driven, we need to put in place a robust ecosystem that nurtures and encourages secure partnerships across vendors, telcos, and enterprises. As an organization that places utmost importance on security, we are developing best-in-class security solutions that will match up the requirements and speed of 5G enabled tech.