As Paul Romer, noted American economist and Nobel Prize recipient, would put it, “Technological advancement or its absence has historically been the deciding factor of the standard of human living.”
Thanks to digital transformation, we experience work and our lives beyond work in ways that a few decades ago, were considered part of sci-Fi movies. Innovations, such as artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing and augmented reality, are reshaping fields like healthcare, manufacturing and entertainment. According to a recent World Economic Forum report, one aspect of the revolution that has recently risen into prominence is Digital Infrastructure.
Global trends defining the digital landscape
Countries such as India, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Bangladesh that have traditionally favoured mobile coverage, are beginning to shift focus towards National Broadband Plans (NBP). In India, the incumbent government has sensitized the prioritisation of initiatives such as Digital India Mission, Atmanirbhar Bharat and Ghar Tak Fibre to drive India towards a US$5 trillion economy by 2024. Bharatnet, GoI’s marquee programme under Digital India Mission, is already at 50% completion of its target of ensuring fibre broadband connectivity to 300,000 villages across India. Furthermore, applied digital infrastructure solutions such as CSC and STL Garv are leading from the front when it comes to enhancing the usability of connectivity in rural India. Unsurprisingly, telecom carriers such as Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio have also begun investing in digital infrastructure for nationwide broadband.
Developed nations viz. US, China, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, have already reaped the benefits of government encouragement of the private sector for mass fixed broadband rollout along with data infrastructure rollouts. Data infrastructure has proven instrumental for policy making as well running businesses in these nations.
Trends and targets from the European region include UK’s Ultrafast Full-Fibre Broadband programme with Openreach; Finland’s National Broadband Scheme; Italy’s National Ultra-Broadband Plan to guarantee services of 100 mbps for at least 85% of households.
5 factors driving accelerated investments in digital infrastructure
- Digital Infrastructure has transcended boundaries between industries
Fundamental service infrastructures such as health and education, even agriculture, are warming up to the digital ecosystem and need comprehensive digital supply in order to serve and thrive. With COVID-19 affecting consumption of critical services such as healthcare and education, governments around the globe have adopted a digital-first strategy to ensure continued delivery of these services with digital infrastructure spending at the core of their investments.
- Voice-driven to data-driven
Globally, the telecommunications industry has become predominantly data-driven evolving from historically being voice-driven. In an age of digital platforms supported by technologies that offer low latency, mobility and availability, the transition of telecom service providers for providing 4G services, and eventual migration to the fifth-generation network (5G) have assumed top priorities for the industry in order to continue serving the wireless connectivity needs of consumers.
- Increased internet literacy & smartphone penetration
Increased internet penetration and growing smartphone adoption are factors driving the growth of digital across the world. Recent studies have established that Broadband Internet connectivity overcomes digital divide, reduces poverty and enhances gender equity in emerging and developing markets. Reports from ITU and Ovum predict that ~30 jobs could be created for every $1 million invested in broadband infrastructure.
- Accelerating adoption of cloud technologies
As companies continue to chart their digital journeys, cloud models will increasingly become the norm for achieving their business goals. A cloud-first approach characterised by increased virtualisation of IT/OSS/BSS applications and the adoption of public and hybrid clouds and SaaS models is already beginning to reshape the IT roadmaps of many leading service providers. For example, AT&T, Three UK and Vodafone announced that they are moving non-network, IT workloads to public clouds.
- Programmability in networks
5G, edge and automation will drive CSP spending on digital infrastructure. Going forward, digital infrastructure will consist of multiple clouds including 5G core, RAN, edge and IT clouds, which will be built using a mix of private NFV/telco clouds, public clouds and hybrid models.
Our top 3 indicators to watch out for over the next couple of years
- Digital Infrastructure spending is going up from the government and overall cloud investments are coming in
In the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, especially during the lockdown, points of high data consumption have shifted and spread to erstwhile uncharted territories. Large telcos have started investing in expanding and strengthening their infrastructure. Seeing good investments from the government, especially on rural broadband connectivity, cloud investments are accelerating in terms of setting up the edge ecosystem and this is also fuelled by private equity activity.
- Fibre penetration will take the lion’s share of broadband investments over the next couple of years
Post-COVID, digital has become a platform spanning across various industries. Growth in overall digital spends will primarily be led by deeper fibre penetration, followed by 5G and Wi-Fi 6 over 2021-22. A lot of focus will go in fibre connecting the towers, homes and enterprises and 2022 onwards, the 5G base will be a large opportunity starting with cities and then moving to other parts of countries like India.
- The emergence of WiFi 6 as a complement to 5G
Spurred by COVID-19 as well as delays in the arrival of 5G, there has been a significant interest in WiFi 6 for IoT deployments. Wi-Fi 6, originally seen as a stop-gap connectivity solution for high speed internet services, offers improved capacity, latency and efficiency. It, however, is no substitute to 5G. As enterprise deployments gather speed, many large-scale IoT deployments will likely leverage both 5G and IoT over the next couple of years. While Wi-Fi 6 will be the preferred technology to handle most non-mission critical applications, 5G capacity will be freed up to support precision engineering, robotics and augmented reality.
Interesting times lie ahead of us!
STL brings to you end-to-end digital solutions
STL, an industry leading integrator of digital networks, has long been a proponent of harnessing technology to create a world with next generation connected experiences that transform everyday living. With intense focus on end-to-end network solutions development, STL develops solutions for global telecom companies, cloud companies, citizen networks and large enterprises for their fixed and wireless networks for current and future needs. Do check out our core capabilities in Optical Interconnect, Virtualised Access Solutions, Network Software and System Integration