With the tech savvy new age customers demanding a gamut of services and applications on their mobile screens, telecom players are gearing up to provide more converged services. The recent announcement of IPTV services by Reliance Communications in association with Microsoft can definitely be considered as the telecom major’s move towards a fully converged environment. Sumit Chowdhury, CIO, Reliance Communication shares with Biztech2.0 his views on key issues related to convergence and recent IT initiatives on this front.
Where is convergence leading the Indian telecom industry?
Indian telecom industry is well poised to be the catalyst for convergence. Convergence is gradually happening but it has to ride on top of infrastructure, which has to be created by the telecom industry. We are actually talking about service convergence and device convergence. Service convergence can be explained as providing a range of services using a same network, for example, providing IPTV and broadband services on the same network. Device Convergence happens when you use one device for different services like an Apple iPhone.
Digital Rights Management is the core for convergence to happen. While there is a lot of talk about it, nobody is significantly investing in the concept at the moment. The concept revolves around issues like rights to own, buy, sell or distribute micro content and is somewhat similar to copyright management. While we don’t have any law for DRM, we do have some barriers to prevent and control copying of content through devices like copy protected CDs. Currently, the telecommunication industry has to follow many different laws that govern this space. As there are differing views, there is a need to understand the concept of digital rights in the right perspective for true convergence to take place.
What are some of the initiatives undertaken by Reliance Communications towards being “convergence ready”?
We are at the forefront of it and are present in every part of the convergence spectrum. Our network is fully converged and is IP enabled, so that we can use the same network to deliver all the voice, data, entertainment and content services. We are going to leverage this network for offering converged services. We are completely convergence ready from technology standpoint; however the market is yet not ready for such products.
While major telecom players are moving towards becoming integrated players, what, according to you, must CIOs keep in mind while considering convergence?
We need to understand that the cost of service increases if we create different IT infrastructures for every new product and service. CIOs need to create synergies between the different verticals of convergence. They play a major role in achieving true operational convergence in the back. When integrated players are finding it difficult to create these kinds of synergies, then think about those who are not at all integrated. It has to be understood that every time a new system need not be created for new services as most of the applications are similar like CRM, billing etc. By customising the current system, at most one incurs incremental cost as compared to creating a brand new carrier. If the company is able to exploit its available resources, a significant reduction in the total cost of new projects and converged services is possible.
We at Reliance Communications are having the same system that can be used for GSM, CDMA, wireless, wireline, broadband and new services like DTH and IPTV. We use a common customer care system for all these services. We can potentially use the same channels to go to market without any loss of customer information.
Apart from the recent CRM upgrade, could you enumerate the recent IT innovations at RCom?
Achieving scale is the most important priority at this moment. As our volumes are growing rapidly, we would like to scale efficiently without spending too much money. Achieving convergence, securing our infrastructure and creating back office automations are some of the priority areas at the moment. We are figuring out how to use systems instead of excel spreadsheets for back office operations. Functions like HR, legal, accounting, auditing all are either already automated or are in the process of being automated.
In order to avoid frauds and to ensure proper receipt of revenues, we have recently implemented revenue assurance and fraud management system. In order to have a DRM system in place, we have already implemented a content partner management system. This will have a list of all our content partners and will also manage contracts with them. We are implementing the same set of systems for our GSM business and are also integrating systems used by our FLAG business. We are doing many projects for securing our IT infrastructure. We are rolling out a huge network expansion plan that includes setting up of 27000 towers that cover 6,00,000 villages and the entire exercise is fully automated. We are IT enabling the entire rollout process from procurement, shipping, logistics and warehouse management. We have recently introduced WiMax in Pune and Bangalore and would soon be launching DTH and IPTV.
What role does management play in allocating adequate funds for upgradation of IT infrastructure?
Contrary to the traditional perception of IT being a cost centre, our management considers this more as a profit centre and expects us to be as efficient as an external IT company. In the management’s eye it is completely a service centre, with the (service level agreement) SLA with the business. Every cost has to be justified and if the justification is good, allocation of funds is not a problem.
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Updated Date: Sep 02, 2008 17:44:01 IST