A robust fibre infrastructure is essential for India to unleash the full potential of 5G and new-age technologies, Trai chief R S Sharma said Wednesday, advocating a PPP model for creating common shared infrastructure at reduced costs. "For fibre to happen, a public-private partnership (PPP) where infrastructure providers too have a skin in the game, is needed," Sharma said at an interactive session organised by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry. India, he noted, has experienced exponential growth in data consumption, placing it ahead of other large markets like the US. However, wireless connectivity continues to account for the bulk of India's data requirements.
"Today, India is transporting more data through its telecom networks than data transported by networks of US and China put together. Also, the data consumption in India is more than twice the average consumption of the US. But in the case of India, about 93% of the data is coming through wireless and seven per cent through fixed line," Sharma said.
In contrast, globally almost 46% of data is transported through fixed lines and 54% through wireless networks. In the case of the US, this ratio stands at 60% (fixed line infrastructure) and 40% (wireless infrastructure), and fixed-line supports most of the broadband requirements for homes and offices.
"This is the deficit which we have. And obviously, you cannot create a great scenario of using all the newer breeds of technology unless you have a robust infrastructure on the ground. The need for such infrastructure is heightened now that we are talking of next-generation 5G and stack of technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data," he said.
Sharma said the full range of 5G applications would ensure that telecom is not just a vertical but the underlying platform for every sector. "But the technology will not work till infrastructure is in place. That is the biggest constraint we have," he said terming fibre infrastructure as a "robust and reliable" solution for India's growing data needs and digital aspirations.
Sharma further added while the cost of the fibre itself was not high, the cost of laying the fibre, "structural" problems, and Right of Way (RoW) issues act as impediments in the expansion of fibre infrastructure. Advocating the PPP model as the possible solution, Sharma said the creation of a common infrastructure could help minimise the cost and maximising benefits.