5G spectrum needs to be affordable: Nunzio Mirtillo, Ericsson

Swedish telecom gear maker Ericsson said spectrum should be made affordable for Indian telecom operators as they are stressed and have limited investment capabilities. In an interview with ET, Nunzio Mirtillo, Ericsson’s head of market area for Southeast Asia, Oceania and India, said the Indian government also needs to focus on security of telecom network infrastructure as the country prepares to ushers in 5G. Edited excerpts:

How will the ruling on adjusted gross revenue impact equipment makers like Ericsson?

We cannot comment on this matter at this stage.

What’s your assessment of the financial stress in India’s telecom industry, given that the 5G trials and auctions are under a cloud?

I think our business is a bit cyclic. We see India as one of the most dynamic markets in the world. It’s now number one in terms of per smartphone data consumption. In the next five years, till 2024, traffic will increase four times, the number of mobile broadband subscriptions will double to 1.2 billion. You have to continue to invest in technology in order to cope with demand. Eventually 5G will come and help the operator with more efficient cost per gigabyte.

Even if the 5G auctions were to happen on time, by end of this FY, do you expect participation by Indian telcos?

If I should be in the shoes of the customer, obviously spectrum needs to be affordable, otherwise it does not make sense. I can’t say if they will go muted or not, but there is a limit to investment capabilities of the operators, which is obvious. The return on investment will not be there in a few weeks, but it will be positive directly or indirectly, especially for India.

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Is there pressure on Ericsson’s business, given that telcos are not as aggressive as last year?

The pressure has been there all the time right…but we have to invest and compete. India in the last quarters has been in the top five in terms of revenue for Ericsson.

Is security a more critical issue for telecom networks under 5G than, say, it is now?

It (government) needs to look into that. It is an infrastructure that is increasing its relevance as we speak, so if it was important yesterday, it is going to be even more important tomorrow. So, they (Indian telcos) need to have the kind of focus that infrastructure is well-managed and does not expose the country to any risks.

Apart from wireless, which other areas is Ericsson seeing growth in India?

In India, we are leaders in managed services, we manage operations for Bharti Airtel, and it is an important area for the Ericsson strategy.

Has your managed services market share come down in India?

We are investing quite a lot in automation and machine learning. In India, together with our customers, the managed services business can eventually grow because of their focus on customer experience.


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