Having been involved with Ciena India since 2005, one of the events I always look forward to is the Ciena Drive which is a great way for our customers’ architects, operational leaders and executives to hear about and provide feedback on our vision and latest technology advances. In August, we had Drive events in Mumbai and Delhi spanning five days, with our executives and product leads presenting the Ciena story. These events also enable many sidebar conversations to exchange India-specific and global insights with folks I have known for a long time.

While some of my observations are somewhat similar regarding the practicalities of applying Ciena’s Adaptive Networks vision as outlined by Anup Changaroth in his CTO Notes from the Road for Asia Pacific and Japan customers, the telecom landscape in India requires us to appreciate some unique experiences and outcomes. 

The good news is that to keep pace with increased consumption and more data users, operators are scaling up the number of 4G/LTE cell sites using existing spectrum.

First is the mobile-centric broadband delivery model coupled with recent dramatic growth in data usage driven by 4G/LTE devices (compute/connect/store at the user edge). For example, Uber drivers in India use ~500MB-1GB of mobile data per day, albeit some of it is watching videos during idle times. Uber drivers would be one group to most certainly benefit from good 4G/LTE coverage in their daily driving. 4G networks now serve 240 million subscribers in urban areas across the country. And while 4G link speeds in India are picking up, averaging 6-7 Mbps as compared to 25 Mbps in advanced countries, LTE coverage in rural areas remains a challenge.

The good news is that to keep pace with increased consumption and more data users, operators are scaling up the number of 4G/LTE cell sites using existing spectrum (versus buying more spectrum as the cost of spectrum relative to per capita GDP is high). Of course, any future 5G-New Radio (NR) spectrum-based cell sites can be incremental add-ons to this strategy as Non-Stand Alone (NSA) connecting to existing LTE EPC or as Stand Alone (SA) to next generation core (NGC).

Operators have also announced plans to increase coverage of fiber to the buildings to help offload traffic away from cellular links. Additionally, India’s spectrum allocation for public wireless services should be enhanced significantly on various frontiers to realize digital infrastructure as a core utility under Digital India.

Second, is that this high growth across mobile, enterprise and Digital India initiatives drives packet optical transport at scale and high-capacity spine/leaf type packet access/metro architecture for a scale out (vs scale up) network fabric.

In addition, I observed significant interest in innovations such as FlexE in our optical platforms and enhancements to our Blue Planet Software.

Finally, and not surprisingly, operators continue to maintain a high priority on stable network behavior, especially with large networks. Resilient architectures to recover from multiple failures are of continued interest. Of course, a stable and predictable network behavior is critical to maintain high quality user experience.

As our customers continue their journey towards an adaptive network fabric with compute/connect/store, I have a front row seat to both watch and help our customers. Exciting times ahead…stay tuned.