Era of Unified Service Offering

By Gulshan Khurana, Joint President & CTO, Reliance Communication

Telecommunications is perceived as one of the key infrastructure component for rapid economic development during the formative years of any economy. In the early 90’s telephone density in India was about 0.8 per hundred persons as against the world average of 10 per hundred persons. It was also lower than that of many developing countries of Asia like China (1.7), Pakistan (2), Malaysia (13) etc. There were about 8 million lines with a waiting list of about 2.5 million.

Over a period of time, data communication experience got enriched through the evolution from GPRS to EDGE/CDMA1X to 3G/ EVDO to HSPA+/EVDO to a comparatively new wide band technology on LTE.

At the beginning of this decade, 3G penetration in India’s geography was quite low, in fact it was ranked worst on list of top 30 countries–chosen on the basis of subscriber’s base. The patchy 3G service and expensive tariffs were two major concerns for poor 3G adoption.

While the Telecom vendors and operators were busy enhancing the throughput capabilities for the consumers by means of deploying better Radio Techniques and Adaptive modulation mechanisms, there was a shortage of overall offering of a solution to the consumer who had the needs of checking real time presence, video telephony, data sharing and many other point to point and group communication needs. With the widespread availability of HSPA techniques, the average throughputs for consumers were reaching 2-4Mbps (depending on various factors via Handsets, Radio environment etc). But the native Technology was still not ready with fancy consumer services to meet market requirement.

This shortcoming was fulfilled with the advent of Over the Top or OTT service providers. Initially Telecom players experimented with Integrated IP multimedia Services to cater to the Rich communication needs but the complex architecture and “operator specific” deployments were a deterrent in this direction along with cost and phone capabilities.

The OTT service providers deliver audio, video and other media over the internet and utilizing the underlying capabilities of the traditional operator’s network. Since, the OTT players do not require any business or technology affiliations with network operators for providing such services, they are often known by the term "Over-The-Top" (OTT) applications.

These lean and nimble OTT players, enabled by technology advances such as smart phones, super-fast IP networks, open source platforms, innovative services, cutting edge functionalities shift in consumer preferences towards their “freemium” based business models are seeing an ever increasing adoption rate.

The evolving need of the consumers coupled with the faster and better Networks and service offering made ubiquitously available by the OTT players made it possible to offer bouquet of Unified service offerings. The basic intent being – be able to offer end-to-end service offering to consumers that could fulfil the needs of consumers to:

a) Remain informed

b) Better connected (by means of voice/chat/video or any other means)

c) Be entertained (by means of audio/video/streaming and gaming) and

d) Transact on Digital media by a ubiquitous service offering by the Telecom partners.

The services are not limited here and by evolution of app stores by various platform providers it has further become easy to be agnostic to the type of Technology or Handsets being used.

Following are some of the domains in which Unified offering is enhancing consumer experience like never before.

Despite the challenges the operators face, they cannot afford to let the situation deteriorate into a win-or-lose proposition. To capture their share of the new value being created through digitization, operators need to adjust their world view, consider their position and preferred way to play in the complete value chain, and develop the capabilities needed to win.

It is still early to say that we have reached a state where we are mature in our unified offerings, we still need to integrate the way we see (Television/other screens), hear and talk (Wireline, wireless, point to point communication systems), transact business (e-commerce, mobile wallets), travel (replaced by virtual presence) etc. The test of time would be to make our hand held device perform much more than it does today and practically replace the wallets, cameras, gaming devices, cash cards, etc. and offer a host of services that we Humans need in a very simplified manner.

What next:

The new era of communication now demands that this unified communication does not only include human’s need to communicate with each other but the next decade will see Humans interacting with machines and also machines interacting between themselves to bring value to the entire ecosystem and become smarter now. The era of IOT (or M2M as it is commonly referred to) will be a milestone in our journey of Communication.

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