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Investment In Digital Infrastructure: The New Gold Rush

We are seeing data growth doubling every three years; 2020 has accelerated human behaviour to digital by at least five years leading to key and permanent shifts

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Since the beginning of this millennium, the internet has gradually seeped into every aspect of our daily existence.

Today, it is the lifeline for individuals, businesses, governments and media. For some of us, it has become as essential as food and electricity. As digital permeates the fabric of humanity, and everything is becoming data, we are seeing growth in data doubling every three years. That is 10 times in 10 years. Sounds impressive? Wait till you hear this - 2020 has substantially accelerated human behaviour to digital by at least five years.

All Is Digital

As the pandemic made us rethink life, tech and non-tech companies are going fully digital. Is it not surprising that a video conferencing application is now worth more than the top seven airlines of the world. People are watching their favourite movies online, independently, and also together at watch-parties. 

Work at home, study at home, games, even exercising - doing everything online has become second nature. We are seeing five key shifts in data consumption at this time - increase in traffic by 60-70 per cent in the past few months, traffic shift towards enterprises and cloud, symmetric traffic in both uploads and downloads, faster response and hence low latency requirement, and usage pattern shift from offices and call centres to home network. These shifts are permanent. 

More Digital Networks Needed

As the world goes online, the currently unconnected, almost 3.5 billion people will come on the internet. They will all demand video uploads and downloads. Organisations will rely on internet of things so that people can control factories from home, and soon will all need some form of autonomous vehicles, and supply chains. This massive change in consumer behaviour will need more digital networks, more digital highways, wider with higher capacity and superior quality fibre based highways. 

We have known that this change is coming. It was always 'in-the-future'. But not anymore. We are already in the future of digital networks. And the new high-speed, high-capacity, digital highways are just starting to get built today.

Digital Network Creators Commit Billions 

Telecom companies, cloud companies, governments and private enterprises are all digital network creators today. These creators and their investors are committing billions of dollars of liquidity and urgency to build networks that reach everyone and give high capacity and better response performance. As telecom companies are not the only network creators, we are going to see a massive race to build these networks better and faster than each other. The whole world stands to benefit from this. As you would expect though, this will need massive effort of managing scale and complexity. 

Future Digital Network And Tech Integration

Networks of tomorrow will be built differently than what we have seen till now. These digital networks of the future need to bring together the power of compute and connectivity, of wired and wireless, and of software and hardware. The confluence of many desirables at one time. 

We need this because, the new networks have to be immensely dense and capable of handling terabytes of data transfer at a response speed of just a few milliseconds. And to be always on. It also has to be affordable for everyone. The old ecosystem of digital network providers will change significantly to make this happen. Or it will have to make way to a new digital ecosystem. 

New Digital Infra Needs New Digital Ecosystem

Like all transformations do, this wholescale digitisation of the world will create a new opportunity. Only those companies that work on the confluence of optical and radio, software and hardware, connectivity and compute, infrastructure and platform and design and deployment will bring solutions for the new digital world. This sounds simpler than it is. The technologies for each of these areas is a field of immense specialisations. It is unlikely that any one can do this alone. It is the time for a group of like-minded futurists to come together in an integrated manner. It is a window of opportunity for a nation and a global ecosystem.

Nation's Window Of Opportunity

Late 1990s offered India an opportunity to leapfrog with mobile connections and software coding. Enterprises swung into action and a whole IT-enabled industry was born, spiralling India into the league of world's leading nations. 

This is the time for India to leapfrog again. Blessed with the world's largest democracy that is globally connected and has a digital population which will double in the next six to eight years, India is the perfect crucible of digital network growth. Indian companies like STL, also have an advantage in optical and radio networking, hardware and software designing and rigorous deployment ranging from busy cities, desolate villages to barren mountains. This is the time for us to Make-in-India for the world's highest tech need. The year 2020 has shown us that as the world is going digital, India must lead the way.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
technology transformation COVID-19

Anand Agarwal

The author is Group CEO, Sterlite Technologies

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