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New Paradigms, New Challenges and New Opportunities

For most of the mobile operators in India, growth is either declining or flat lining, making return on network investments more critical, even as the demand for capacity accelerates. The pressure is being felt across the value chain including telecom infrastructure providers.

Driven by hyper-consolidation in the operator space and changing market dynamics, the telecom tower industry is undergoing a phase of consolidation as well as transition. The industry now comprises fewer but much larger tower companies. But tenancy correction (with fewer operators) has adversely impacted their revenues. Having already foreseen this phase, tower companies had already ventured beyond their traditional offerings by tapping new segments such as in-building solutions, small cells and Wi-Fi, but success, so far, has been limited.

For telecom infrastructure companies, both tower and fibre players, the next growth impetus will come through exploding data usage, rollout of next generation data networks and the increased proliferation of smartphones.

While 4G has been driven by device proliferation and broader connectivity, 5G will mostly be driven by IoT. With the content delivery shifting to 5G powered mobile wireless devices and with control over the content, it will be imperative for operators to upgrade their network to be able to handle the massive growth in traffic and deliver content and services with low latency.

This is where infrastructure companies will need to step in by setting up a significant number of additional data sites, backed by high-bandwidth fibre-backhaul over the next few years. This not only calls for higher investments but has generated a need to assess new business models and technologies to adapt to the next wave of growth that will comprise greater adoption of technologies such as virtualisation, big data, M2M learning and artificial intelligence.

Meanwhile, the ongoing Smart Cities Mission, Digital India initiative and BharatNet programme have led to the creation of a new customer segment, that is, Government, offering a gamut of opportunities for the telecom infrastructure companies.

However, the aforementioned opportunities come with their own set of challenges. For instance, development of smart ultra-light sites and their deployment on city infrastructure in tie-up with municipal corporations and civic bodies will be key to achieve street level coverage under the various government programmes. But lack of cooperation among government departments remains the biggest hurdle in doing so.

The industry is also plagued by issues such as the lack of enforcement of RoW rules across the country. On the operational side, illegal sealing of towers, restriction on new tower installations, and unreliable grid power continue to impact growth. The upcoming National Telecom Policy, 2018, is likely to address some of these issues.

As far as the challenge pertaining to high energy costs is concerned, the industry seems to be on the right track as it is working towards minimising diesel consumption by exploring alternative and cost efficient technologies such as solar and biomass-based power and adopting high-efficiency storage solutions. Tower companies are also partnering with specialised O&M and data analytics companies to manage their energy requirements and consumption.

The mission of this conference is to examine the key market and technology trends; study the impact of recent policy, regulatory and other developments; discuss the new opportunities and challenges; bring out the expectations and key concerns of the telecom infrastructure industry; and propose solutions. The conference will also provide industry stakeholders a platform for sharing experiences and showcasing the latest innovations and the most promising technologies.

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