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Aiming for a connected future: Highlights of IMC 2019 – Day 1

October 15, 2019
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The third edition of South Asia’s biggest telecom event, India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2019, began on a high note with key leaders expressing their optimism about the country’s digital potential at the inaugural session. Based on the theme, “Imagine: A new CONNECTED world; Intelligent. Immersive. Inventive”, the event was inaugurated by Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister for Communications, Electronics & Information Technology and Law & Justice, Government of India, in the presence of Anshu Prakash,Telecom Secretary, Department of Telecommunications, Government of India. Industry leaders such as Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla Group; Rakesh Bharti Mittal, Vice-chairman, Bharti Enterprises; and Mahendra Nahata, Director on Board, Reliance Jio, were also present at the inaugural.

Highlighting the importance and progress of the Prime Minister’s Digital India vision, Prasad talked about India’s changing digital landscape and the role of the telecom industry in empowering citizens digitally. “The digital profile of India is such that we have 1.18 billion phone users, 1.24 billion unique digital identity-Aadhaar card holders, and 630 million internet users. Technology is at the centre of the entire reformative process that the country is witnessing at present. We believe that every initiative that gets undertaken in the country must lead to a transformation of the quality of life for Indians.”

He stated that the government will ensure broadband for all by 2022. “I see two major trends in digital disruptions. One, data is gaining prominence over oil as a resource and two, artificial intelligence is revolutionising every aspect of our life. The way rural India has adopted digital technology is very assuring for me. This aspirational rural India is driving business and growth in digital technology as well.” He mentioned that digital payment transactions in India have gone up from 980 million in November 2016 to 3.32 billion today. Prasad further noted that the government has put in a place highly conducive policy environment by laying out the roadmap for spectrum trading, sharing and harmonisation, promoting active and passive infrastructure sharing, and enco- uraging open source technology. The National Digital Communications Policy 2018, the IT policy and the electronics manufacturing policy will all lead the way for India to harness its digital potential.

“Our ambition is to make India’s digital economy a component of the $5 trillion economy. We want India to become a hub for telecom manufacturing. In 2014, we had only two mobile manufacturing firms but now we have 268 mobile manufacturing companies, including some of the biggest global players.”

In a respite for the industry, the minister assured that it is in the process of conducting some reforms regarding the spectrum prices for the upcoming auction, slated sometime during the current financial year. “5G is the order of the day. We realise that, and have already given trial permission to some companies,” he added. Prasad said that cybersecurity is gaining importance as the country moves deeper into the digital world. “It is our collective responsibility to provide a safe and secure cyber world. We want to develop India to become a major data economy of the world; at the same time, we do not wish to compromise on the data sovereignty of India.” He added that even countries like the US, the UK and Australia have echoed the same concerns as India regarding the traceability of encrypted messages through social media.

Also speaking at the occasion, Anshu Prakash stated that India’s telecom industry is a key infrastructure sector that is critical for the success of Industry 4.0 and the Digital India initiative. He noted that IMC is the largest telecom event in South Asia and this year, it will take a critical look at new and emerging technologies. IMC is a platform for the industry to come together to showcase technology that can benefit stakeholders, promote ease of living and ease of doing business, and create new employment opportunities. “The total footfall at the event is expected to be more than 100,000, with as many as 500 companies and 250 startups participating in the technology mega show,” he added. Prakash also read out a text message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said that the theme of this year’s event was closely related to the lives of people.

Malcolm Johnson, Deputy Secretary-General, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), was a special guest at the inaugural session. He stated that India has been a member of the ITU for several years and has also established an ITU innovation centre in New Delhi.

The global body looks forward to making this collaboration grow over the next few years. “Indian startups can forge partnerships with the many players in the telecom and internet sector who are members of ITU. ITU is committed to connecting everyone,” he added.

Meanwhile, Jim Whitehurst, President and CEO, said, “Open source has been around for 20 years now. If you look at things like big data and machine learning, most of these innovations have happened with open source.”

Addressing the audience, Nunzio Mirtillo, Head of Market Area, South-east Asia, Oceania and India, Ericsson, said it is encouraging to see the eagerness and interest in 5G in the industry and the government. “We believe 5G trials will be instrumental in exhibiting the benefits that the technology can bring to India. An encouraging policy framework for 5G, a thriving ecosystem and affordable spectrum will provide an enabling environment to help operators make a seamless switch from 4G to 5G,” he added.

The session concluded with senior representatives of key vendors like Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei and ZTE giving a glimpse into the 5G trials they have planned with telcos over the next three days. The dignitaries unveiled a special report, “Imagine a new connected world”, brought out by KPMG, in association with IMC and COAI.

Key announcements and launches on Day 1

Ericsson, along with Airtel, presented a 5G-powered Connected Music performance at IMC 2019. The demonstration involved connecting two parts of a musical performance using 5G network and presenting it live as one, for audiences at two locations. One part of the performance had the singer and music composer, Siddharth Shankar Mahadevan perform “Jai Ho” from the film “Slum Dog Millionaire”, whilst a Swedish band played at the Ericsson booth, about 100 metres away. The ultra-low latency of the 5G network powered the connected music showcase at the IMC. Other 5G use cases showcased include connected ambulance, 5G-enabled immersive sports, fixed wireless access and private LTE network.

Bharti Airtel showcased a range of exciting digital solutions for businesses and consumers at IMC 2019, and demonstrated a wide range of use cases and applications for a world of connected things that leverage 5G and pre-5G network technologies. Some of these included cloud-based immersive gaming, secure mining, smart factory, remote healthcare, smart experiences, smart retail stores, advanced surveillance, smart cities, real-time air quality monitoring, smart street lighting poles, smart refrigerators, smart cars and smart bikes.

Huawei demonstrated the potential power of a 5G-enabled future with live 5G use-case applications. The company, along with key partners, showcased a variety of 5G-enabledapplications for the telecom sector as well as for vertical industries including safe cities, smart cities, virtual reality, operating boarding gates at airports and smart classrooms.

HFCL, the leading manufacturer of telecom equipment, optical fibre cables, system integrator and end-to-end telecom infrastructure provider, announced the launch of the next generation Wi-Fi technology products and solutions under its brand – IO Networks. These products are globally benchmarked with features of next-gen technologies across all products that include access points, unlicensed band radio, wireless LAN controller, element management system and cloud network management system.

Mavenir and Vodafone Idea have extended their partnership related to telcos’ network-as-a- platform that reaches distributed presence across all major industrial, commercial and services clusters in India. The extended partnership will focus on three thrust areas: building a universal secured cloud capable of hosting multiple tenants and third party applications; building a fully automated platform that enables self-provisioning of various workloads; and setting up a joint innovation lab and team that will innovate on chipsets and operating systems, and work at the application level to offer unique APIs, and enable new use cases for Vodafone Idea customers.

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