“We are partnering with both state and central governments to realise their dreams of a unified digital India. STL Garv, our rural development initiative is aimed at making rural India future ready. Centre’s prestigious BharatNet program aims to connect more than 600,000 villages in the country with high-speed fibre network for the digital delivery of several citizen-centric services. With initiatives such as MahaNet in Maharashtra and Smart Cities in Kakinada, we have distinguished ourselves as a trusted technology partner to the government, equipping them with the tools and technologies to expand reach into rural India”, affirmed K S Rao, CEO, Network Service Business, Sterlite Technologies Limited in conversation with Poulami Chakraborty of BW SmartCitiesWorld. Excerpts below:
With the technology booming in the Indian market, what expectation is STL having for the upcoming days from here? What strategies is STL adopting to make the most out of this affirmative market situation?
With the roll out of 5G, and advancements in technologies like IoT and Edge computing, we believe that the next couple of years are going to be transformational. With data consumption on exponential rise and 5G on the way, wireless platforms will not be enough to meet the demands of bandwidth-guzzling consumers. We need an optical fibre backbone to carry this large amount of data. If you look at US and China, they have a massive fibre network, in addition to a strong mobile network. In this context, BharatNet is crucial for our broadband ambitions.
As a network innovator, we are constantly evolving to bring end-to-end data network solutions to our customers worldwide. To make this possible, we have made the following efforts:
Deepening Customer Engagement: Collaborated with Tier-1 Global Telcos to demonstrate solutions for their next generation networks at consultative design thinking workshops - TechSparks.
Expanding Horizons: Increased Global footprint across EMEA and the US. We also acquired IDS group in the UK and enhanced our data centre design and deployment capability.
Scaling up on execution: Recently completed Kakinada Smart city, a one-of-its-kind project, with technologies for mobility, situational awareness, traffic control, smart lighting, public safety and security.
Setting up Industry 4.0 manufacturing: Successfully commissioned our state-of-the-art glass manufacturing facility in Aurangabad, India.
Being Future Ready: Launched disruptive data network solutions for 5G, virtual access networks and secure sensing at India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2019.
How enriching and business target fulfilling have been the experience in Indian Mobile Congress? Are any new launches announced?
India Mobile Congress has always been a strategic platform to present our new innovative solutions to customers and the industry at large. This year too, we had an impressive footfall of over 5000 visitors on our booth during the 3-day long event. We had key stakeholders from Government and Regulatory visiting us. Several customers from Telecom sector, Cloud companies, Defence and Large PSUs also visited us and complimented us for bringing new solutions to the market.
Some of the hyper-scale launches were:
Stellar-Fibre- Stellar Fibre is a path-breaking solution that will power the next-gen ultra-high definition future. The leading-edge innovation from STL’s optical design solutions guarantees best-in-class data transfer, negligible data loss even with high fibre bends, and compatibility with all fibres in use today.
5G Edge Mantra- An end-to-end design build as a deployment solution, 5G Edge Mantra enables service providers to thrive in the 5G world by bringing the storage, computing and processing capabilities to the edge of the network. The technology provides wide-area coverage and high-capacity transport capabilities for ubiquitous connectivity.
MantraPODS- MantraPODS is a programmable open disaggregated solution for networking that completes the fully integrated FTTxMantra, an end-to-end FTTx-as-a-service solution that enables swift roll-out of Fibre-to-the-Point (FTTx) networks. With Programmability at the core of the network, PODS bring more flexibility and service excellence to data networks.
LEAD 360o 2.0- STL unveiled its second generation of Hyperscale Network Modernisation solution – LEAD 360o 2.0 which comes with special features like robotics cable blowing and AI bots and further accelerates the deployment of smarter networks of tomorrow. LEAD 360o 2.0 combines the potential of cutting-edge service engineering and highly orchestrated fibre roll-outs to deliver smart networks of tomorrow.
Sensron+- Sensron+ is industry’s first end-to-end solution for critical infrastructure security that will leverage the power of hybrid technologies, combined with big data & analytics and the most advanced command and control centre to deliver 360-degree situational awareness and an unparalleled ‘threat to response’ mechanism.
What challenges do you face while operating in the Indian market? What methods of mitigation do you adopt to curb these challenges?
Lack of Infrastructure, high auction price, state of telecom industry and skill gap are the major challenges in Indian market. Some of the other challenges are multiple RoW approvals, inconsistent infrastructure synergies, cost competitiveness and speed of modernisation amongst others. To meet these challenges, we need deep fiberization in networks and require an end-to-end approach for network modernisation.
For mitigation purposes, we work closely with customers, government and industry stakeholders on issues like single window clearances, infrastructure synergies between government and private assets etc. We also develop market technology-led solutions that are focused on solving challenges as well as developing ecosystems for digital tomorrow. Our constant focus is on innovation and research, and driving efficiencies through our in-house Centre of Excellence via optimal practices that can significantly boost FTR percentages and reduce the likelihood of redundant efforts. We have also partnered with start-ups and innovation engines like Agnii to crack problems and drive efficiencies.
To meet the skill gap, STL Academy, one of our endeavours, has been partnering with state governments and local gram panchayats to create an ecosystem of highly skilled professionals for deploying and maintaining complex optical fibre networks. STL Academy has recently announced signing of a MoU with Common Services Centres (CSC) Academy to skill Village level entrepreneurs across the country in Optical Fibre Network. The program will train and skill 1,00,000 VLEs across 1,00,000 gram panchayats thereby making it the world’s largest training on Optical Fibre Network.
Is India 5G ready? Your views?
India is gearing up for the 5G revolution. Since one-third of the connection base is still operating in the 2G networks, it is anticipated that India will witness 5G migration by 2021. The roll out has already been done in the US and other European countries, garnering heavy traction within the market. Both private and government players are focused on the same. To leapfrog to the 5G era, we need to go a long way in tower fiberization, and STL’s hyperscale modernisation solutions are helping our customers bridge that gap.
Are you also working with state or central government in order to cater to their pet projects like Smart Cities, Digital India and others? Please enlighten.
We are partnering with both state and central governments to realise their dreams of a unified digital India. STL Garv, our rural development initiative is aimed at making rural India future ready. Centre’s prestigious BharatNet program aims to connect more than 600,000 villages in the country with high-speed fibre network for the digital delivery of several citizen-centric services. With initiatives such as MahaNet in Maharashtra and Smart Cities in Kakinada, we have distinguished ourselves as a trusted technology partner to the government, equipping them with the tools and technologies to expand reach into rural India.
MahaNet- Ensuring e-connectivity to the villages through our unique Lead 360 deployment approach, we have created a smarter digital network and have partnered with the Maharashtra government to enable integrated digital services to the last-mile.
Smart Cities Project: Recently, we have successfully completed a Smart City project in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh. With over 1,600 elements of smart city technologies integrated into it, this is one of India's most advanced command and communication centres. It features new technologies such as horizontal Internet of Things (IoT) platform, long-range based city-wide wireless sensor network and disaster management system.
This has improved the everyday living experiences of over 3.25 lakh citizens of Kakinada. More than 13,000 users use the city's wi-fi connectivity daily while smart surveillance has helped reduce police complaints by over 50%.
STL Garv: It is a digital access point for villages which enables access to multiple digital infrastructure and services for rural communities. STL Garv platform has a host of features like - WiFi hotspot, interactive screen, and biometric check, power backup with fast charging, camera and multi-directional microphones. STL Garv has created tangible impact by enabling digital services, user friendly interface and easy accessibility.