Indian Telecom Operators Accelerate Network Deployments Held Up by COVID

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Ciena, a networking systems, services and software company is witnessing “increased activity” in India, its Chief Executive Officer Gary Smith said in the first quarter earnings call on March 4, 2021. Smith said that the company continues to witness “encouraging signs of recovery from India” with the enhanced activity said to be happening on multiple fronts including deployments. In its first quarter results, the company said that it recorded US757.1 million (Rs 5511 crores) in revenues as compared to US$832.9 million (Rs 6063 crores) in the previous year quarter.

Telecom Operators Starting to Roll Out Networks Held Up by COVID

Smith in a release said that the company “delivered solid revenue and profitability” despite “continued challenging market conditions and dynamic industry environment.” In the earnings call, Ciena CEO said that the company is witnessing “encouraging signs or improvements” across the world including India.

“In India, we are seeing increased activity both in terms of beginning deployments that were held up because of COVID, that’s beginning,” Smith said.

Ciena in 2019 signed multiple network deals with Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel with the deals said to cover both cellular networks and Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) services. It was highlighted that the partnership with Jio “lays the foundation for an adaptive network that can scale with high efficiency and dynamically adapt to fast-changing capacity requirements.”

Further, the partnership between Airtel and Ciena is to build “one of the world’s largest Photonic Control Plane networks” in the country. It was said that the “new backbone network” will enable Airtel to “serve the exploding demand for high speed data services” in India. The network was set to be built across 130,000 kilometres and connect 4000 towns across the country.

Smith in the fourth quarter earnings call in December, 2020, said that the company has been “disproportionately affected” in rolling out the new networks due to multiple reasons including COVID.

New Business Opportunities Emerge as Operators Phase Out Huawei Equipment

Meanwhile, Smith in the earnings call in March said that the company is also witnessing new business opportunities largely driven by the “desire” of the telecom operators to replace Huawei equipment from their networks.

“We are seeing [it] being expedited in India and we won a number of those awards,” Smith said. “We are seeing good activity in India.

"India, I think, is moving faster in all dimensions of that change out, I think, because of the relationships between the two countries,” Smith said.

In December, the CEO of Ciena said that one of the three large operators in India is “very dependent on Huawei” but that the operator is “making plans to migrate away” from the Chinese vendor.

It has to be noted that Jagbir Singh, chief technology officer at Vodafone Idea told ET on Tuesday that the operator is unlikely to award new orders to Chinese vendors for its core network. However, it was said that the operator will continue its relationship with the Chinese vendors in the areas where they already serve the operator.

Smith said that the “major opportunity” for Ciena to bag the Huawei business is in Europe but that the orders “takes time” as the company is in the infrastructure business.

“But time for decisions, time to operationalize, and to get all the back-office done and that is a multi-year program,” Smith said. “Whilst this has had a lot of focus for all the reasons that we know in the last sort of 18 months to two years, we saw signs of this before and I would describe it more around reducing dependency.”

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Born in India, Yogesh loves to travel and has lived in multiple countries including New Zealand and Canada. His bylines can be found on various newspapers and blogs throughout the world, including Vancouver Sun, Surrey Now-Leader, Daily Hive , Investing News Network and Rach F1.

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