‘We are well positioned to support India’s ‘Broadband for All’ ambition’ —Ulf Pehrsson
Vice President, Head of Government and Industry Relations, Ericsson
ICT solutions provider Ericsson is in constant dialogue with the government, regulator, and industry bodies in India to fructify ‘Broadband for All’ dream. In an interaction with Voice&Data, Ulf Pehrsson, Vice President, Head of Government and Industry Relations, Ericsson, talks about the need for releasing more spectrum and importance of fiber for realizing India’s broadband dreams.
Voice&Data: How do you see the ‘Broadband for All’ dream actually fructifying in India?
Ulf Pehrsson: Of course, we look very positively to the India situation and now more spectrum is becoming available to the market which is absolutely fundamental for mobile phones.
More and more spectrum should be brought to the market and we know that will happen as we expect it (spectrum auctions) in 2016. But of course, there are other challenges in order to really connect everyone and you also need to address issues such as ‘right of way’. Fiber is also very important, and it’s not mobile wireless or fiber, they are interdependent. At the same time, availability of sites is also very crucial.
Voice&Data: How is Ericsson playing a role in India’s broadband dream?
Ulf Pehrsson: We are the major provider of mobile networks in India and of course,
we have a strong legacy having been here for more than 110 years. And as you may know India is now the largest base for Ericsson in the whole world with more than 20,000 employees in the country.
So, I think we are very well positioned to continue to support India in working towards reaching the ambition of ‘Broadband for All’.
Here, the government can also play an important role from the policy side by making sure that ICT is integrated in the government policies.
Voice&Data: So, what type of conversation you are having with the Government of India when it comes to providing broadband?
Ulf Pehrsson: Of course, we are in constant talks with the government and regulative representatives but we are very much in favor of enabling a discussion between governments and regulators. The issue we continue to raise is spectrum, of course.
You must be aware that governments and regulators come together at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) every three years to identify the spectrum needs of different services, mobile, satellite, broadcast, etc. This year, the conference concluded only a few days ago. One of the roles was to identify new spectrum for fourth generation, the 4G technologies, in the next five years or so. In the run up to the conference, there was really no consensus, globally, around new spectrum, but it identified spectrum both in the circle, 1.4 GHz band and 3.5 GHz bands.
I think it’s a good signal that governments and regulators are looking into the need for more spectrum and identifying new airwaves for mobile. So, I mean spectrum will be there and obviously happen. Besides, we are making sure that the conditions are there to build that infrastructure and also to work around policies side, on making use of ICT in government services, etc.
Voice&Data: Besides, spectrum crunch, the issue of expensive spectrum is also there in India. Are you taking up that too?
Ulf Pehrsson: I think that what is important for Ericsson as the leading technology provider in the world is to continue to advocate for the availability of spectrum. We are convinced that India will do it in a very good way in 2016 when you have a big ocean there with several spectrum bands. So, we have no particular views on what is the right price or what is the right level.
Voice&Data: Keeping in view that India is aggressively pursuing Digital India and Smart City initiatives. According to you, which country’s model will be ideal for India to follow?
Ulf Pehrsson: I think, it is important to realize that there is no ‘one size fits all’ but of course every government needs to take into account where they are, what is the starting point, what are their particular conditions in their markets. And there are no two countries that look the same.
But I think some Asian governments are making the right choices and underlining the right priorities. Firstly, there is more spectrum available which is very important.
In India, we have to make sure that the country benefits from ICT basically in all sectors of the society and also encourage small cities to integrate ICT. In the cities, the requirements are most extreme on the networks, etc., and also we can benefit most from ICT. I believe that the building blocks are there. You have to engage all the departments of the government into it. Basically, the tools are there it is just that you have to make use of them and you have to start review and come back and work on it.
Voice&Data: Do you have any message for the telecom operators in India?
Ulf Pehrsson: They are our customers and the message is that we will continue to support you with the best possible technology, and the best available technology and the best competence. We are confident that we are in a good position to be the best partner going forward. Whichever way they choose to go, we will be their support.
Voice&Data: What’s your outlook for the India telecom industry?
Ulf Pehrsson: We don’t provide any guidance. But, so far, this year, as we can see is a very positive development in the Asia market and we reported that pattern. In Q3, we had close to about 81% sales growth in India market. I think it is very much a reflection of the fact that investments are happening now in India and we have a leading position in supporting those investments. And we see no reason why we should not look with optimism to 2016 and the following years in India.
I think that what is important for Ericsson as the leading technology provider in the world is to continue to advocate for the availability of spectrum.