Work from home, online learning fuelling need for greater investment in digital infrastructure: TRAI chief
With work from home, online learning, and in-home entertainment fuelling demand for robust digital infrastructure, massive investments would be needed, especially in areas like fibre-to-the-home, data centres, in-building solutions, and proliferation of wifi hotspots, TRAI Chairman R S Sharma said on Monday.
Terming telecom infrastructure and services as "key enablers" and "critical determinants" of the country's digital and economic growth, Sharma said creation of robust telecom infrastructure - a capital-intensive sector - will play a key role in seamless connectivity, which is the essence of true digitisation.
"Huge infrastructure [must] be created for achieving objectives of connect India mission, and this is only possible with required investments to be brought into sector in next couple of years," he said addressing an event organised by Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA).
While significant coverage of 4G is now a reality, there is still room to strengthen the underlying infrastructure, essentially supporting the backhaul to improve performance matrix.
"Building suitable telecom infrastructure has a direct effect on the quality of telecom services, and this [impacts] growth of the economy. Hence, it is important that we invest more and more in infrastructure," Sharma said.
India has moved quickly on path of rapid digitisation, he said, adding that given significant capabilities in telecom and software, the country is poised to benefit from new digital technologies and platforms.
"Robust telecom infrastructure is also key for realising the Digital India mission, and for reaping the benefits of futuristic technologies like 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), machine-to-machine communications, and AI, leading to transformation into the digital era," he said.
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Deployment of innovative and contact-free services across verticals in post-pandemic era will increase demand for digital infrastructure, Sharma said noting that COVID-19 has made digitisation a "necessity rather than a choice".
"To address the growing demand of work from home, in-home entertainment, digital learning, and ensure equitable access to the internet and technologies, we need to significantly ramp up digital infrastructure, which includes traditional telecom infrastructure and new-age systems and content delivery networks," he said.
With demand for digital services increasing at a rapid pace, massive investments are needed into digital infrastructure, specially in areas like FTTH, data centres, in-building solutions, and proliferation of wifi hotspots, he added.
"5G will require huge investments in fiberisation in the coming years," he said.
There are still several challenges involved in the rollout of networks in unserved and underserved areas, including rural and remote locations.
"The challenges arise due to low reach of infrastructure in rural areas, low population density and lack of viable business case - all of which should be addressed with suitable policy prescription," Sharma said.