Giving Wings To Enterprise Expansion Aspirations

Sandeep Ghodke, Executive Senior VP - Enterprise Business, Reliance Communications Innovative telecom solutions hold the key to surmounting last mile challenges as businesses eye new markets in the urban periphery

India continues to be a big growth story. In terms of GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity(PPP), India is already the world’s third largest economy. An important protagonist in the growth story is the country’s rapid urbanization. While census data suggests that about one third of the country fits the definition of ‘urban’, the reality is that the cities are rapidly expanding. A recent report, alluding to built-up areas seen in satellite images, claimed that more than 60 percent of India is urban. Another report predicts that the world’s top 10 fastest growing cities between 2019 and 2035 will all be in India. With cities expanding into their outskirts and the growth of tier II & III cities, the urban consumer base is getting increasingly dispersed.

The rapid dispersion of this upwardly-mobile affluent population makes it imperative for almost all businesses to expand their active presence into these markets. In this digital age, it is the CIO who is often the person that businesses look towards when it comes to giving wings to the enterprise’s growth aspirations. Secure and reliable telecom connectivity understandably figures at the top of the CIO wish list. However, being a capital intensive infrastructure, connectivity often struggles to keep pace with growth aspirations. Enterprises need multi-location connectivity that is secure, cost competitive, simple to configure, quick to deploy, has high uptimes and can handle complex applications with minimal intervention. Secure connectivity across locations is a business challenge that boggles small businesses as well as large enterprises.

The business necessity of expanding into smaller cities and erstwhile fringes of big cities magnifies the last mile challenge. Businesses have to grapple with many speed breakers as they expand to unfamiliar territories with weaker infrastructure. Wiring up locations is not among the easiest problems to solve in the absence of a ready made wireline network up to the last mile. Even in large cities, the last mile challenge can take on a different contour. Not all sites could be conducive to wired access. Even with wireless options
like Unlicenced Band Radio(UBR), gaining permissions and access for putting up rooftop antennae at the right location in a concrete maze could turn into a complex puzzle.

Several enterprises today have to rely on plain broadband, but that solution struggles with the challenges of security and cost. Enterprise class applications always demand a private and secure network with access control features that are difficult to implement on the plain broadband platform.

Businesses have to grapple with many speed-breakers as they expand to unfamiliar territories with weaker infrastructure

From the ISP/Telco perspective, providing last mile connectivity over wireline has to meet very steep Return of Investment requirements. Optic Fibre Network(OFC) particularly demands heavy investment and time. While OFC has several advantages over other technologies, the practical solution is often a hybrid approach. In other words, the service provider needs to have enough width in the last mile solution portfolio comprising fiber copper radio and 4G, combined with the expertise to identify and deploy the apt solution(s)at sites.

There’s another reason why the last mile challenge gets magnified for enterprises. Telecom companies traditionally have been designed with the B2C business at their core. From the way networks have been built, to backroom operations the primary design consideration has been to serve the individual customer. Consequently the B2B part of the business though usually more stable often takes the backseat. This is not surprising, considering the size of the B2C market that the country’s huge population commands. Today, India ranks second globally in terms of telecom subscriptions, Internet population and app downloads. However B2B business have their specialized requirements that need a focused approach.

Telecom players are now beginning to focus on this challenge. The answer could lie in innovation. For instance Reliance Communications has a product called ‘Branch Connect’ that promises secure private MPLS connectivity for enterprises without the need for any wiring and digging(except for the hub backhaul). The spoke locations need a plug-and-play device that taps into the 4G wireless network in the area. Solutions like these bring down the deployment time drastically to just a few days.

Innovative last mile solutions have the potential to contribute to general infrastructure development too. For instance,projects like highway construction need temporary connectivity during the project phase, and a cost-effective, wireless last mile solution fits the bill perfectly.

There are times when businesses have to make do with consumer grade connectivity. Enterprise class applications are more demanding on the network, and when they have to compete with individual customers for bandwidth on the last mile, the experience predictably leaves a lot to be desired. A separate network built for enterprise customers could be another way of giving businesses an expressway for their digital journeys.

Innovative solutions for connectivity for enterprises including those for the last mile are key to making businesses fly. While the infrastructure will get better with every passing year, intelligent ways of leveraging the network will define how quickly businesses are able to reap as well as distribute the advantages of a connected world.