India will see the first deployment of 5G by 2020, says Sanjay Kaul, MD (India & SAARC) at Cisco Systems. However, legacy technologies such as 2G will be around for 5-7 years due to the existence of a huge number of feature phones in the country, Kaul tells ET in an interview. Edited excerpts
What kind of trends do you see when it comes to data adoption in the country?
If you look at last three years, the amount of data we produced is equal to entire amount of data that we produced in the country for the last 30 years. Our prediction says that it will continue to grow at a faster pace. It owes to the technologies that we have in place like 4G, Wi-Fi, which is emerging as a common resource. Also, our behaviour as users on social networks has really helped boom the data.
In last one year after Reliance Jio launch, data has reached the next level because it came free and it really proved that there was a hunger for consuming data and I think all that is good news for the industry.
How do you see older technologies like 2G, 3G coexisting with newer technologies like 4G, 5G?
We are a huge country with a huge pyramid where my sense is that 2G will survive at least another five years even though it is an old technology because there are a lot of feature phones still out there and they need to be supported. But in India, four worlds exist, you need to provide for all segments. The technologies namely 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G will coexist but when 5G comes, from an Indian context, 3G will take a slow pace because as you move forward in Gs, 4G to 5G, the technology becomes more efficient and particularly 5G technology has number of inherent advantages—you can do network slicing, it is ready for IoT (Internet of Things) kind of support.
How aggressively do you see telcos working towards bringing 5G in India?
Everybody’s committed towards rolling out 4G, we’re talking about another 50,000 4G base stations. My sense is that by 2020, you’ll see first deployments of 5G in the country. 5G brings in ultra-speeds, it brings in low latency and for a lay man, who doesn’t understand deep technology, it means that when you’re consuming high bandwidth services, there is no disruption. Such networks provide seamless connectivity with speeds, ultra-speeds, with really low latency.
How important are future proof networks in the wake of new technologies such as IoT?
IoT is a convergence of many things. You first need digital networks, digital service providers, which I typically divide into three layers of framework. You need connectivity in place because that is the foundation of IoT, then you need the platform because that’s where you manage the intelligence and analytics of the network and then you manage the devices that you’re connecting through the IoT technology. I believe it’s incredibly important because given the trend in the country, we’re seeing that mobility revenues are declining, they’re flattish. We’re predicting that there are going to be 2 billion connected devices by 2020, which is going to be a source of new revenues.
In the times of big disruptions, some questions loom over data security and data privacy. How can India ensure security while building its future networks?
It’s not just that we build the network architecture; you need to have a security wrapper around this network. In everything we do from a technology standpoint, security has to be an embedded part of it. Today, we’re very vulnerable but you’ll see security will become as important as putting the basic note of creating the data and I think service providers and enterprises will really focus on that.
We are going to see a lot of work done on the policy front with new telecom policy and IoT policy coming in. What are the aspects that these policies can focus on?
What government can do is, it can create a very smooth policy structure. Industry players like us together with service providers and enterprises and integrators then have to rally behind that vision and execute it. Compared to last 10 years, the last two years have been phenomenal with new policies around spectrum trading and making spectrum available. There was a dearth of spectrum two years back but now there is enough spectrum. Service providers might complain that it’s very expensive but it’s there.