“To cater to increasingly digital consumers dispersed across the nation, many organizations are already switching to digital business models, virtualizing their workflows, and leveraging Industry 4.0 technologies to augment and fortify their supply chains, while also turning their workforces at least partly remote. In fact, hiring for remote jobs have seen a 3X jump this year compared to pre-COVID levels,” said Miyuki Suzuki, President, Asia Pacific, Japan, and Greater China.
India should allow fifth-generation (5G) services in the millimetre wave (mmWave) spectrum band, and telecom carriers should come up with strategies on how they want to deploy networks, said Miyuki Suzuki, President, Asia Pacific, Japan, and Greater China. In an interaction with ETTelecom’s Muntazir Abbas, Suzuki talks on the digital economy, Covid-19 pandemic, partnerships with Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, and 5G partnerships worldwide. Edited excerpts.
How do you see the digital economy shaping up, especially in the wake of the pandemic?
The pandemic is shaping a new world – contactless, low-touch, and digital – where connectivity (broadband, 5G) will become integral to most of our activities. We expect the preference for low-touch services for working, learning, shopping, transacting, and more to continue gaining traction across India. For instance, a recent report by Unicommerce has found that 66% of online consumer demand in India is originating in Tier II and beyond cities, which is expected to increase post-pandemic.
To cater to increasingly digital consumers dispersed across the nation, many organizations are already switching to digital business models, virtualizing their workflows, and leveraging Industry 4.0 technologies to augment and fortify their supply chains, while also turning their workforces at least partly remote. In fact, hiring for remote jobs have seen a 3X jump this year compared to pre-COVID levels.
While these concepts are not new, the possibilities they engender are. The focus is shifting from creating digital experiences to enhancing them, which is where new-age networking technologies like 5G can be game-changing. Here, telecom service providers have a tremendous opportunity to become indispensable enablers of the fast-emerging digital economy.
How much are India and Asia (APAC) contributing to your overall business?
Cisco has been in India for 25 years now, and we are very proud of the progress we have made in the country in terms of sales, engineering, and investments in start-ups, Country Digital Acceleration, CSR, Networking Academies, and more. India has delivered robust growth over the last four years, and we have continued to grow faster than the market. Our priority has been to go wider into new enterprise verticals such as manufacturing, retail, small business, and infrastructure and go more in-depth with customers where we are traditionally strong, such as in FSI, service providers, and ITeS.
Cisco is enabling India to digitize at scale and speed, as we continue to help businesses achieve their digitization objectives. We see great opportunities in India, which is on track to become one of Cisco’s top markets globally. We believe that the emerging low/no-touch economy, infrastructure modernization, workplace transformation, small businesses, and 5G will be the key growth drivers for Cisco in India over the next three to five years.
What are your key strengths in the 5G domain? How many active partnerships are there globally in Asia and India with telecom carriers?
To enable the digital economy emerging from the pandemic, Cisco is building the internet of the future, which will further transform the way we engage with each other and the world. Our network architecture centers on silicon, optics, software, and security, powered by mass-scale, throughput, AI/ML (extreme automation), IPV6, telemetry, and industrial IOT (IIOT). In December 2019, Cisco launched a programmable chipset, called Silicon One, built for high-performance networking for future 5G applications. This first-of-its-kind chipset will help our customers to stay ahead of the curve and create innovative experiences for their users.
Globally, we have over 125 active engagements with global customers on 5G, and close to 50 service providers are actively testing and deploying our 5G offering – Cisco 5G Now solutions. We are working with them on architectural designs, providing packet core technology. We expect to see a more significant impact from 5G as the number of users and devices increases.
In India, we are engaged in 360-degree partnerships with all leading telecom service providers to help prepare their networks for 5G by enabling an open, intelligent and secure network platform, fast-track their transformation into digital enterprises by digitizing their internal processes and infrastructure, enhance their go-to-market strategies, and ensure greater returns on their 5G investments.
How are you helping Jio launch 5G? Update on further discussions with BSNL on 5G?
Reliance Jio, in partnership with Cisco, is building a first-of-its-kind, 5G-ready network, transforming the digital services space and creating an ecosystem of network, devices, applications, and content at affordable cost, and propelling India to number one in mobile broadband consumption by automating the world’s first and largest exchange-to-exchange all-IP network in the world, from cell site to data center, delivering the most affordable services to the Indian population.
Similarly, we have also partnered with Airtel to launch India’s largest 5G-ready, 200G IP, and optical-integrated network designed to enhance network availability, capacity, and scale.
The value of 5G in India, in many ways, is higher than in advanced countries as it enables India to jump straight to ‘smart infrastructure’ that comes at a lower cost but with faster delivery, which is why several leading providers are already working towards this. To unleash the power of 5G at scale, we believe partnerships are critical. We will continue to explore partnerships with service providers in India to help bring the benefits of the internet to everyone.
Name a few takers of your $5 billion fund in India for 5G deployment?
We have committed $5 billion in funding to help build 5G networks over the next three years and aid our customers in accelerating their 5G deployments. We are already engaged with India’s leading telecom service providers to get their network architectures ready for 5G and are also working with enterprises to help them leverage 5G technologies.
What is the role of the telecom sector in the overall economy, and how will 5G rollouts help?
Over this past year, the meaning of connectivity has changed. With the internet serving as the lynchpin of all our daily pursuits, telecom service providers have been at the epicenter of keeping economies running, businesses operational, and communities connected. In fact, according to a report by the Cell Operators Association of India, the telecom industry enabled 30-35% of India’s GDP during the lockdown, in addition to its direct contribution of 6%.
Even before the pandemic, the telecom industry was one of the most rapidly evolving sectors globally, with India well on its way to becoming the second-largest smartphone market globally by 2025. 966 million mobile users and 907 million internet users are expected by 2023, with one in 20 devices running on 5G. The telecom service providers are gearing up for the 5G era, digitizing their operations while developing a robust organizational framework to run applications across networks, platforms, and systems.
Do you think India/Asia should open up new bands such as millimeter-wave frequencies for seamless 5G services?
We need higher frequency spectra to accommodate the increase in data usage. The millimeter-wave is an important band considering it will provide consumers with ultra-fast mobile broadband services, including immersive entertainment, and enable a host of applications.
Many countries are releasing the millimeter-wave spectrum already for 5G services. For instance, North America has already deployed 5G using millimeter waves in the first phase. India could do the same, and service providers can strategize on how they want to deploy networks.
How much 5G will contribute to your overall revenue by the end of CY 2022?
5G will create a new set of offerings for enterprises, which means tremendous opportunity for service providers. Cisco is well-positioned to help service providers provide new offerings for enterprise clients in the 5G era, including managed SD-WAN services, managed collaboration services, managed security services, and more.