India's optical network market is booming thanks to the take-up of mobile broadband services, and is likely to outpace China in the next few years, according to Finnish vendor Nokia.
“The Chinese market will continue to be a bigger market, but, in terms of growth, India will definitely outpace China," says Sam Bucci, the senior vice president and general manager of Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK)'s optical networking business in India. "Infrastructure is already there in China and the growth will be incremental but here [India] there is investment for infrastructure. We have seen the market here explode when it comes to bandwidth."
India emerged as one of the world's best-performing markets for optical networks in 2017, according to a recent report from Ovum, with sales up 11.8%. "Mobile broadband growth will drive India to be the fastest-growing market through 2022," says the company, forecasting an 11.4% CAGR (compound annual growth rate), driven by 4G and future 5G growth.
The so-called "fiberization" of towers and homes is of critical importance. Telcos are fast realizing they need to deploy fiber to improve service quality for end users. Fiber currently connects only about 20% of towers in India. More will be needed to cope with demand for future 5G services.
"The scale of the type of solution we need to build for India is incredible, and is much larger than in other countries," says Bucci. "Besides, the systems are built and are filled up very quickly for multiple networks." Indian telcos now adopt new technology as quickly as operators in any other market, he adds.
He also reckons there is huge demand for innovation coming from India. “The pace of innovation to satisfy Indian operators right now exceeds that in even North America or China," he says. "We do see India right at the forefront in terms of demanding innovation and scale. I believe India is going to be the leader in the implementation of 5G."
Nokia expects its optical networking portfolio, especially its Photonic Service Engine 3, which was launched in March, to help it gain market share.
Commenting on forthcoming innovation in this segment, Bucci says Nokia will foucs on helping telcos to automate and take full advantage of virtualization. "We want to completely eliminate the complexities of the optical network," he says. "We are working towards introducing high speeds at the edge of the network. Then there is a part about automating the network."
Through virtualization, says Bucci, operators could build optical networks that can allocate bandwidth dynamically and bolster efficiency. "It would be just like with Airbnb for hotels, where people rent a room when no one else is using it," he says. "The network is not used 100% of the time. Our goal is to make it a lot more consumable."
Nokia faces competition from companies including Ciena, ECI, Tejas and Huawei in the Indian optical networking market.
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading