Changing Trends in Telecom sector in 2016)

In this blog post, Atul Kumar Rastogi, an Executive Director at Telecommunication Consultants India Limited and pursuing a Diploma in Entrepreneurship Administration and Business Laws from NUJS, Kolkata, describes the upcoming trends in the telecom industry.

Telecom Industry Trends

Telecom technologies have proven as the lifeline of people. It not only enables them for communicating but also helps to accomplish tasks in more efficient way.

  • Telecom has been evolving in last a few years at a fast pace. Now the Methods of Communicating are changing very fast. Earlier landline phones were only means of telephonic communication. Then came mobile technology, enabling people to communicate and make calls on the move.
  • Then there is Continuous Innovation in mobile segment via improvement in end user devices like the advent of smart phones etc. There is continuous innovation in new wireless technologies on one hand like – 3G, 4G, 5G and wifi, WiMAX etc. and on another hand, development of mobile based software apps and websites which are providing various services to people via use of data communication over wireless media.
  • The availability and Use of Internet over mobile smartphones has revolutionized the society. Making online payments has become popular and many people can pay their bills etc via use of mobile apps, enabling them for a better quality of life.
  • While helpful services are being developed there is another aspect of this growth that is Cyber Security Threats. Where people are vulnerable to the misuse of their credit cards, bank accounts and personal data misuse.

Now global connectivity of internet and free use/access of websites has not only enabled new learning for people across the globe but this has also enabled bad activities like terrorism etc.

There is a need for regulating this growth and keeping a continuous watch on the misuse of the communication resources by anti-social elements for their malicious intentions.

Telecom Sector Developments Can be Divided Into The Following Areas:

  1. Developments in backend technologies like switching technologies Network function virtualization, SDN (software driven networks), advent of high processing power and RAM.
  2. Developments in user devices like smart phones based on android and IOS operating systems.
  3. Developments in use of internet on mobile via wifi & 3G/4G.
  4. Developments in app platforms enabling more demand for data use over mobile.
  5. Developments in knowledge sharing like Tele-education, Tele-medicine and messaging services.
  6. Developments in social media access over mobile devices. Change in way of communication on WhatsApp and other social networks.

Issues In Telecom Industry

  • (A) Operator to operator
  • (B) Between operator to public
  • (C) Between operator and Govt
  • (D) Phone manufacturers/retailers and customers
  • (E) App developers and customers
  • INTERCONNECTION (Type “A” issue as mentioned above)

This is connectivity of electronics via copper wire or via optical fibre cable between various service providers like, between Airtel and Vodafone etc., for the flow of data and calls between the customers of one operator to another operator. In India, regulatory control for deciding framework for interconnection is done by TRAI. (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India)

There is recently a review of interconnection principles due to the fact that there are changes in telecom operations in India from state-run services to the competitive market-driven services. Increase in mobile subscribers and decline in landline services. Technological changes and the advent of IP-based next generation networks.

So far, all agreements between operators were done on the basis of mutual negotiations.

Recently there are 7- 10 ISPs in each telecom circle called license areas. There were disputes between operators for billing, charging, timing etc and most importantly on the number of ports required to connect and traffic figures. Moreover, there is competition amongst operators for giving better services and this requires smooth call flow from one operator to other, hence, it requires more ports of interconnection.

The telecom is a dynamic service. Sometimes, the traffic flows in some direction increases suddenly and sometimes it remains at low levels. The networks cannot be designed on maximum load basis as it would need heavy investment in the core equipments. Hence, there are always scuffle among interconnecting parties. Recently everyone has heard of Reliance Jio raising issues that other incumbent operators like Airtel, Vodafone, Idea are not giving point of interconnection. This was due to competition and arrival of new operator Reliance Jio was not welcomed by existing operators as it will reduce there market share in future.

  • SHARING (Type “A” issue as above)

Due to too many operators in each state, and each operator having its own networks and towers, there was need for more towers. Hence, a common criteria was thought by operators where they can share the infrastructure like towers, power plants etc, for providing better signal to customers. This has not only benefited customers but also benefited the operators by reducing their costs.

  • Wi-Fi Calling (Type “E” issue as above)

It is a Over-the-Top service that means telecom service provider only provides data service to customer but this service is used by app providers to enable customer to make calls via VOIP network from the mobile smart phone.

This has reduced the operator’s revenue from calls and people have started suing this calling via IP service for talking to their friends and relatives abroad. As per regulatory setup, computer to computer calls and data connections are free to use and are legal. Using this logic, these services like Skype etc are flourishing. Skype has further enhanced the user experience by offering video chat, video call services. Users can exchange digital documents like images, text, video apart from calling.

Skype-to-Skype calls are free of charge as per above principle, while calls to landline telephones and mobile phones are charged. As the calling on IP internet gives benefit to customers in terms of cost, however, calls via this channel are difficult to trace and record and is a threat to the security of the nation. Due to this, new regulations are coming in force and IT Act also is amended to cover cyber security related crimes.

The Information Technology Act, 2000 provides the legal framework for electronic governance, recognizing electronic records and digital signatures. It also defines cyber crimes and prescribed penalties.

  • Net Neutrality (Type “B” issue as above)

After a user gets connected to internet via ISP, he/she can access the websites by accessing there corresponding URLs. Net neutrality is thought as a principle where all the sites are made accessible to users and are not blocked selectively, regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

As of August 2015, there were no laws governing net neutrality in India. There have already been some violations of net neutrality principles by some Indian Internet service providers. There are no laws enforcing net neutrality in India. Although TRAI guidelines for the Unified Access Service license promotes net neutrality, it does not enforce it. Hence, TRAI made rules  in favor of Net Neutrality.

The TRAI on 8 February 2016 barred telecom service providers from charging differential rates for data services.

“No service provider can offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.”

  1. No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged by the service provider for the purpose of evading the prohibition in this regulation.
  2. Reduced tariff for accessing or providing emergency services, or at times of public emergency, has been permitted.
  3. Financial disincentives for contravention of the regulation have also been specified.
  4. TRAI may review these regulations after a period of two years.”(Source: TRAI web site)
  • Green Telecom (Type “C” issue as above)

As per Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC), Global mean temperature may increase by 1.4°C to 5.8°C, with a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations, relative to pre-industrial levels over the next 40 to 100 years.worldwide. ICT sector is contributing for around 2% of global CO2 emissions.”(Source : TRAI web site)

Greening the Telecom Requires Participation 3 Stakeholders –

  1. Government
  2. Telecom industry
  3. Citizens

The First step for making telecom sector green is to measure emission quanta from networks and devices and e-waste disposal. It would then need to encompass green networks, green manufacturing, e-waste Management and green buildings.

  • The Advent of Smartphones  (Type “D” issue as above)

India mainly depends on imports for mobile phones. As per a report, India imports approx 400 Million USD worth of mobiles in a month and out of which 94% are from China. The cost of smartphones has decreased significantly and this has enabled poor people to use the smartphones and take advantage of apps on these phones. Recently, mobile payment has come up as a better option and is being promoted in India even by our Prime minister after the demonetization of currency notes of  Rs.500 and Rs.1000.

  • SPECTRUM (Type “C” issue as above)

Radio frequency is a rare resource which is used by mobile phone operators to communicate with the customer phones over the air. As the traffic increases there is more requirement of this resource. The operators keep on purchasing the spectrum from Government via Auctions.

The Cost paid by operators is a huge portion of there investments in networks for providing the telecom services. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) at the World Radiocommunication Conferences allocates spectrum frequencies for the use of various countries.

Spectrum Allocation is required to ensure interference free over radio waves. Sharing is possible on the basis of geographical separation, time-sharing and via technical solutions like Smart antenna and Softwaredriven radio (SDR) systems.

Department of Telecommunications has evolved guidelines for the allotment of extra spectrum to operators. The subscriber-based criteria have been for various categories of areas, average traffic per subscriber, number of base stations in an area etc.

Spectrum is allotted subject to availability at a particular location. Spectrum is allocated based on auctions or fixed fee. It can ensure spectrum ‘owners’ to minimize the use/need of spectrum. The government allowed spectrum trade to allow new users to  access spectrum and to provide them with possibilities to move to another non-wireless media or other frequency bands if required.

The changing trends of Telecom Sector have undoubtedly revolutionized the industry up to 360 degrees but, Is it making us more Tech-centric? Think about it!!

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