Monika Gupta, Telecom Consultant

How the carriers in India are progressing on IoT while coping with the ambidexterity challenge.

Indian telecom carriers have seen a new reality emerge in the last year or so, where the data boom and fast growing consumer demands have been contrasted with high price sensitivity and fierce competition. And this too at a time where technology is moving a generation – from 2G/3G to 4G/5G and new technologies of IoT, AI, AR/VR are emerging and creating disruptive innovation. It would not be incorrect to say that the carriers in India today are facing a major ambidexterity challenge of managing today’s business/exponentially increasing volumes and adapting for tomorrow’s changing demand.

And in this situation IoT in India is making slow, but steady, progress.

It has clearly emerged that real time location based services (for vehicle telematics, logistics applications, asset/inventory management, remote monitoring and maintenance, security applications, supply chain automations, workforce management, etc.) and smart utilities/smart governance are the top two IoT use cases in India. Socially relevant use cases in healthcare, agriculture, environment/climate management, public safety, and surveillance are seeing maximum traction.

What is also becoming evident is that while India will be a top user of global telecom/emerging technologies, the use cases shall be India-specific/localized and shall focus on low-cost innovations keeping the price-sensitive market in mind.

For now the Indian carriers’ game plan is clear, the incumbents like Vodafone India, Bharti Airtel are leveraging their installed mobile technology and platforms to offer IoT solutions; carriers without licensed spectrum like Tata Communications have deployed and are expanding a LPWAN LoRa network and IoT platform across India; a new unit like Unlimit is working at setting up an ecosystem of partners, customers, and developers along with an IoT management platform across connectivity, applications, and advanced analytics and insights and the greenfield Reliance Jio is deploying a nation-wide NB-IoT network and IoT platform and planning to leverage an open source ecosystem. State-run BSNL has also announced partnership with Aeris Communications and signed MoUs with Coriant, Nokia, ZTE, Ericsson to jointly work and tap the IoT market in India, with the focus on offering IoT solutions and services to SMEs and public sector undertakings.

Along with this, all the carriers are actively looking at both consumer and enterprise IoT use cases and identifying specific new IoT use cases/tracks, plus exploring new technologies like 5G, AI, AR/VR to offer further innovative services in the near future.

The carriers are not alone in setting up the IoT ecosystem in India and are being supported by the IoT startups – both Indian and foreign IoT startups setting up their operations in India. As reported by Inc42 in January 2018, there are 971 IoT startups in India with 47 percent catering to consumers and building solutions such as wearables, connected vehicles, and connected appliances and 40 percent catering to enterprises. In-line with the top use cases in India, they are evenly distributed among segments such as healthcare, transport, agritech, services, and logistics.

The coming months will tell how the carriers progress with their IoT plans while coping with the ambidexterity challenge. The upcoming National Telecom Policy 2018 and the Government of India’s push for national broadband connectivity, digital enablement, 5G, M2M/IoT are expected to give ICT innovation and the sector a boost and act as growth enablers.

Bharat exn


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