Over the last 25 years, the sector has managed to design, implement and maintain in India, one of the largest, most complex and innovative voice and data networks seen anywhere in the world. It serves a huge customer base of approximately 1.2 billion, which is globally second only to China, with monthly data consumption above that of the US and China combined with over 5,96,000 cell towers, and more than 22 lakh base transceiver stations (BTSs). This was possible with a massive investment of Rs 11.25 lakh crore by telecom companies. The telecom industry is now an essential service and considered as the economic backbone of the country with a contribution of 6.5 per cent to the GDP.
During this crisis period of COVID-19 and the lockdown, the telecom sector has ensured that people remain socially connected, information is processed and disseminated. Telecom networks have also enabled various sectors to remain connected and functioning, the move to work-from-home can be enabled, and other digital work like online classes, online payments, continue to be available to citizens.
The telecom industry is now an essential service and considered as the economic backbone of the country with a contribution of 6.5 per cent to the GDP.
Despite the fact that the sector is reeling under a financial debt of over Rs 7.7 lakh crore, the industry continues to ensure the uptime of their networks remain at 99.99 per cent, while maintaining key quality of service parameters. At the initial phase of the lockdown, the telecom sector aggressively pursued with all the stake-holder's initiatives that would provide safety, accessibility, and bandwidth to mobile phone users during these challenging times. Telecom companies have placed their personnel in kirana stores, medical stores, grocery stores, mother dairies and locations approved to be kept open by the government, so as to enable customers top up their service packs. Online access through company websites have been streamlined and made easy to navigate and for payments to be made. The industry has also gone the extra mile to ensure those at the “bottom of the pyramid” receive some free voice services and SMS services during the period of the lockdown.
The industry has gone the extra miles to ensure those at the “bottom of the pyramid” receive some free voice services and SMS services during the period of the lockdown.
State governments were also supportive in responding to the requests from telecom operators. On the basis of the Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines, to facilitate recharges, State governments allowed the opening of mobile recharging retail stores. Vehicles carrying diesel were allowed so that diesel generator sets at mobile towers could get the required fuel, as the backup power source in case of no availability of electric supply. To ensure customers can get new SIM cards without any problem, the process requiring verification of documents by employees was deferred and televerification through IVR was allowed.
After an initial surge in data traffic of approximately 25 % the industry is now witnessing a flattening of traffic demand on the networks.
Hence, with support from government authorities and various ministries, the telecom sector has successfully managed to provide uninterrupted connectivity to citizens in such a critical time. After an initial surge in data traffic of approximately 25 per cent, the industry is now witnessing a flattening of traffic demand on the networks. We believe this has been made possible with stakeholders such as, streaming platform players, and the Department of Telecom-munications (DoT). Over-the- Top (OTT) players supported the cause, by reducing their content from high to standard definition (HD to SD), local municipalities helped by working with operators to bring sealed towers back online, some redistribution of traffic on the network also helped, among other things. Based on the current status, operators believe they can now continue to provide reliable and quality services to customers.
We believe that all the stakeholders, government bodies, telecom companies, ministries, etc, must work together and move forward uniformly, to fulfil the dream of fully connected Digital India, as envisioned by the Honorable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi.