|Author:||Dr Pradeep Sindhu|
|Title:||Vice Chairman, Chief Technical Officer and Founder|
|Organisation:||Juniper Networks, India|
Dr Pradeep Sindhu is the Vice Chairman, Chief Technical Officer and Founder of Juniper Networks. Dr Sindhu left the Computer Science Lab at Xerox PARC to find Juniper Networks. At Juniper Networks, Dr Sindhu played a central role in the architecture, design and development of its first routers and ran the company during its start-up phase. Dr Sindhu is currently responsible for the company’s technical road map and plays an active role in day-to-day design and development of future products. At PARC, Dr Sindhu worked on design tools for VLSI and high-speed interconnects for shared-memory multiprocessors. This work led to the commercial development of Sun Microsystem’s first high-performance multiprocessor system family. Dr Sindhu played key roles in the architecture, design and development of these machines. Dr Sindhu holds a PhD in Computer Science from Carnegie-Mellon University.
India has more mobile than fixed-line subscribers. A factory worker without a permanent home often has a mobile connection. Internet-based initiatives such as e-Choupal offers farmers the information and services needed to enhance productivity, improve prices and cut costs–all in Hindi. India’s many engineering graduates and first-rate telecommunications facilities have induced global ICT firms, among many others, to establish R&D centres based in India. Many Indians working abroad have returned to India to set-up their companies’ R&D facilities.
India is no longer a land of isolated towns and villages, with development limited only to pockets of metropolitan areas. Everyone is becoming a part of the new emerging India, as they are connecting to the outside world. Think back, not even a decade ago, to the ordeal of making an ISD (International Subscriber Dialled) call–a request had to be placed with the telephone exchange, followed by a long wait and then, perhaps, the thrill of speaking to your relatives many miles away. The scenario in India has completely changed. People are just a dial away from each other. Mobile phones are threatening the switched telephone networks; there are already now more mobile subscribers in India than fixed-line subscribers. It is no longer a surprise to see a milkman connected to his shop or a housekeeper connected to her hometown by mobile. A factory worker may not have a permanent address, but he will have a mobile connection. Connectivity is now a part of the common man’s life. India has leapfrogged to a new era of technology. From PSTN based dial-up, consumers are moving to the speed of broadband. According to Gartner, there will be around 210,000 broadband subscribers in the country by 2007, up from a current 75,000. Broadband is not only used by home users for faster downloads, but also by corporations to increase their productivity. During the past year, there has been a lot of activity by companies laying new infrastructures for backbone networks. Indian giants like Reliance, Bharti, BSES and Tata Power have invested huge amounts to lay optic fibre cables across the length and breadth of the country. Public sector operators like GAIL, Power Grid and Railtel are joining them, investing heavily in laying optic fibre cables and connecting cities. India is rapidly transforming itself from a bandwidth-deficient country to a bandwidth surplus country. Broadband will touch everyone’s lives very soon. A number of e-Governance initiatives are based on the access that the Internet has been able to deliver across the country. Projects such as e-Choupal are a testimony to the penetration of the Internet. This unique web-based initiative offers farmers throughout India all the information, products and services they need to enhance farm productivity, improve farm-gate prices and cut transaction costs. Farmers can access the latest local and global information on weather, scientific farming practices as well as market prices at the village itself through this web portal–all in Hindi. E-Choupal also facilitates the supply of high quality farm provisions as well as the purchase of commodities at the doorstep. Today, there are around 5,050 Choupals reaching 29,500 villages, and 30 new villages are added every day. For farmers it is a win-win situation. Sitting in his village, a farmer can check the prevailing purchase price in the marketplace through e-Choupal and sell wherever he wishes to. Farmers are not the only ones gaining from technology. Professionals, too, are gaining from it. India is emerging as a favoured destination for global research and development. India has one of the highest numbers of engineering graduates in the world, many from world-class institutions such as the IITs. Global firms have established R&D centres as direct subsidiaries. Several others have formed R&D alliances with, or have contracted research to, local firms. The incoming companies include telecom service providers and equipment manufacturers, chip designers, IT hardware companies, medical equipment makers, engineering design companies, the producers of consumer durables, automotive products, chemicals, plastics and pharmaceuticals. These developments would have been impossible without sophisticated networks. The innovations and breakthroughs we share today would simply have not been possible without these networks. Technology has helped us come together and work as a team, eliminating the distance between, say, Sunnyvale and Bangalore. Texas Instruments, Intel, Adobe, ST Micro and Juniper Networks have all established R&D centres in India. One reason this has worked so well is the time difference between the West and India, which helps organisations carry out round-the-clock development. More MNCs (Multinational Corporations) are being tempted to set up R&D centres in India and benefit from the advantages that India has to offer. These centres are not just doing repairs or fixing bugs; there are already many examples of MNC R&D centres doing quality work, contributing significantly to new developments and product enhancements. A number of Indians working for multi-national companies have returned to India to set up their companies’ R&D facilities. Alvin Toffler, in his famous book The Third Wave, talked about the edge that technology will give to countries or organisations. The maximum utilisation of technology has been instrumental in putting India on the global map as a new technology superpower. India is well aware that, in today’s digitally connected world, international organisations depend on global networks. The success of highly distributed businesses ultimately hinges on the capacity and efficiency of the networks over which they run–and on the skill with which they are managed. There is an intense need for business processes to be both simple and agile, which is causing companies to look to IT and communications technology to maintain and improve their competitive edge. On top of that, new applications are introduced every day. Today, cell phones come with built-in cameras, browsers and productivity tools, which means that within one device, many types of devices, functions and applications converge upon one network–completely mobile–and each expects the network to deliver video, voice or data to the user upon demand. This makes things complicated for networks. Think what this implies to the service provider. It now has to ensure that the user has the same experience on his or her mobile device as he or she had when connected to their legacy network. Networks have to be designed so that, when a new service such as browsing by mobile is offered, the service requested by the user operates seamlessly and there is no disruption to the network. This takes us to convergence–multiple services and devices on one network. Indian service providers are aware of the new needs and are building converged backbones to handle the demand. Services such as GSM, CDMA, video streaming and fixed-line voice are converging and being carried over IP (Internet Protocol) networks–the next generation of networks in India. Convergence is giving birth to the virtualisation of the office. Executives in their ‘virtual offices’, any point with access to an Internet-connected computer, can work from anywhere in the world and yet access information from their personal, or corporate, networks as easily as if they were in their offices at headquarters. FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) executives, medical representatives and any other group you care to name are on the road every day visiting partners or customers, knowing that they can access corporate materials from a cyber café, handheld device or hotel room. Believe me, I have done exactly that on more occasions than I care to remember! Mobile access technology is gaining a lot of attention in India. The increasing demand for instant access springs from e-business and its ability to deliver real-time data to users. Meanwhile, wireless and mobile computing devices are improving at an accelerating rate, making interactive programmes more appealing and relevant on PDAs and mobile phones. Now, customers, business partners and employees want to tap into key business information via not only their desktop computers, but on their wireless devices as well. It is not only the classic businessman doing this; women in rural India are contributing to the progress of their villages by using their mobile phone to conduct entrepreneurial activities. Nasscom, India’s National Association of Software and Service Companies, is optimistic about the increasing penetration of wireless technologies, particularly in rural areas and, for good reason, mobile penetration in India has been swift. According to IDC, India’s mobile users grew to 8.5 million in September 2004. This number is expected to reach 50 million by 2006, according to COAI. The substitution of fixed phones by mobiles is expected to increase as the price differential between the subscription prices of these two services continues to decline. From almost every angle, the future looks bright for telecommunications in India. The country is expected to become the fastest growing telecomm market in the Asia-Pacific region, with around 35 million new subscribers in 2005, up 18 per cent from 2004. Gartner Inc. has also predicted that Indian enterprises will spend US$16.7 billion on telecomm services this year. The statistics are buoyant: as we approach 2010, India’s domestic demand for telephone lines is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 13.8 per cent to 112 million lines. These are exciting days for India’s networks and for those of us who contribute to their development. Network investment and subscriber numbers are rising. Next generation technology is replacing legacy networks. Business models are changing as communications become more affordable, powerful and prevalent. Think about such online transactions as banking, booking travel, viewing exam results or setting an appointment at the US embassy– these used to be novelties, but in India they are rapidly becoming normal. The country has come a long way from the days of queuing for a long-distance call and the best has yet to come. Today’s connected India is truly the emerging India!