We spoke to Sanjay Nayak, CEO and MD at Tejas Networks, about his company’s role in India’s biggest broadband project and the hard-fought lessons learned from success in one of the world’s most competitive markets
It goes without saying that 2020 was a disruptive year for the telecoms industry. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic saw demand for connectivity skyrocket to an incredible extent, with most of us reliant on broadband infrastructure for both our business and home lives.
But while this surge in demand was impressive, it was not entirely unexpected. It is well understood throughout the telecoms industry that data usage is increasing rapidly each year and will only continue to do so in future, as new technologies like 5G offer up even more connected experiences for enterprises and individuals.
Handling this increasing demand will be a major challenge for the industry and, for Sanjay Nayak, CEO and MD at Tejas Networks, one that can only realistically be met through the scaling up of fibre networks.
“What really happened in the last 12 months is that with work from home, learn from home, and everything else, people really have increased the demand for broadband by a factor of ten in many cases. As a result, in many parts of the worlds, including India, many of the greenfield rollouts are taking place on fibre, as this is really the only way to scale up networks,” explained Nayak.
As a result of this increasing demand, Tejas Networks’ home market of India is rapidly transforming. Currently, the disparity between fixed and mobile infrastructure on the subcontinent is stark, with most of the country’s population reliant on 4G for their connectivity needs. However, rapid fibre rollout means that the market is opening up.
“In India, while there is very good amount of broadband infrastructure in the form of 4G, fixed broadband infrastructure is very small – less than 10 million subscribers. But it is expected in the next 24–36 months that we’ll have more than 100 million broadband subscribers on fibre,” said Nayak.
But with connectivity ambitions on such a large scale, two key challenges have risen to the fore for Indian operators: the cost of rollout and the cost of maintenance of a new fibre network. For Nayak, the solution here lies in proper planning, with cost effectiveness built into the network from the beginning through the intelligent use of existing infrastructure. This is certainly the case with India’s largest greenfield broadband rollout, Bharatnet, an enormous project spanning some 500,000 km of fibre, in which Tejas Networks played a crucial role.
“We started working with government right from the beginning, when the project was conceived,” Nayak explained. “We really helped them plan and design the whole network in terms of identifying what infrastructure was already available. For instance, the roads were used for GIS [geographic information system] mapping to figure out where fibre could be laid.”
“One of the most interesting things we did was to help plan the infrastructure in an extremely cost effective manner. The rollout cost of Bharatnet, probably covering 200 million people, is the lowest in the world. It is an order of magnitude lower than the National Broadband Network in Australia, or the rural broadband rollout in the UK.”
It should be noted, of course, that while fibre is almost certainly the king of connectivity technologies, it cannot be laid everywhere. For areas with difficult terrain, such as mountains, where fibre is impractical and costly to deploy, maturing technologies like fixed wireless access (FWA) can provide a functional and flexible alternative.
“You should take fibre as much as you can, but there will still be pockets where you cannot,” said Nayak. “FWA is definitely a good alternative for quick rollouts and also for providing decent capacity – there’s no point providing suboptimal capacity from the beginning, because bandwidth demand will only increase.”
Now, with lessons learned from their success in India, Tejas Networks is expanding to a more global market at a time when the industry is crying out for alternative network suppliers.
“The operators around the world have clearly got a mandate to diversify their supply chains. It doesn’t make sense for anyone to put all their eggs in one basket,” explained Nayak. “Tejas provides a very credible alternative. We’ve built a strong reputation starting in India, which is a very tough market to succeed in, where you have to have the latest technology, the highest quality, as well as competitive costs. The cost of telecoms services in India are by far the lowest in the world, so success in India’s competitive market gives us a fantastic platform to be successful anywhere in the world.”
“In summary, we bring in the innovation of a Western world company and the cost competitiveness of an Eastern world company, all within a framework of a trusted partnership.”
The full interview with Sanjay Nayak can be viewed from the link above.
You can hear from Tejas Network’s CTO, Kumar Sivarajan, on a panel discussing emerging fibre technologies at this year’s online Gigabit Access event. Register here now
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