2018 has been a momentous year. The National Telecom Policy became the National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP). Telecom Commission became the Digital Communications Commission. This is a heartening trend because we have always been of the opinion that communication has grown far bigger than just telecom. While a name change may seem like a small move, it denotes a shift in how the government is looking at propelling the future of communication in India.
One of the primary mandates of the NDCP is safe and secure connectivity for every Indian, irrespective of where they live. It involves not just communication but also goals like job creation, revenue creation, etc. as the primary effects such a change.
With these facts rooted, here are some of the trends I foresee see in the digital communications space in 2019.
1. Convergence of communication will lead to better customer experience
At the beginning of 2018, we placed our bets heavily on the convergence of communications. The NDCP has taken a step in this direction by restructuring the regulatory framework. With the framework in place, we will definitely see more companies adopting a mix of communication across different platforms to stay relevant thus leading to a better customer experience.
We will see companies providing an interesting mix of complete communication across different media. It will also cease to matter if a call is routed over IP or over PSTN. The difference in cost which was touted as a benefit of the difference will vanish.
2. Distributed call centres will become more cost-effective
With lowering call costs and the advent of convergence, distributed call centers will be not just efficient but also cost effective. With changing business models, there are an increasing number of customer conversations that happen outside the traditional call centre. These can be tracked and measured as well using a distributed set up.
3. IoT will be omnipresent
India is gearing up for 5G auction in 2nd half of 2019. Cisco, Samsung, Ericsson, Nokia, Intel and Sterlite Tech will invest more than Rs 4,000 crore in India, inline with the goal to achieve a capital gain of $100 billion as per National Digital Communications Policy 2018. Bharti Airtel has inked memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Nokia and Ericsson on preparation of 5G rollout.Reliance Jio is preparing to launch 5G services within six months of spectrum allocation. The telco is deploying optic fibre which forms the backbone of a 5G network.
5G will change future of IoT devices and India seems to be ahead on that curve with auctions happening as early as next year. We will see smart homes, smart factories, smart cars and this will lead to operational efficiency across the board. For example, ID cards and lanyards will make way for NFC and mobile apps. IoT will stop being an abstract concept and start making an entry to our everyday life.
4. The language barrier will be a thing of the past
Voice communication has one big limitation today- the language barrier. We will see some breakthrough in the realtime translation of communication happening between people speaking different languages. For example, you could have a conversation with someone speaking in Bahasa and be able to interpret that in English to ensure that there is nothing lost in translation, literally and figuratively.
5. Simple will be the most powerful
With increasing focus on the Indian rural market, communication needs to be simple and low tech. We will see more and more companies tapping into the user-friendly, easy to understand feature phones via calls & SMS to bring voice to the next billion users. With features like interactive SMS and smart IVR powered calls, the possibility is endless.
6. Increased focus on customer privacy
With the NDCP emphasising on keeping customer information private and secure, there will be renewed interest in the way customer data is currently handled. Companies will have to ensure that they share customer data judiciously and only when it is absolutely essential. Even so, right measures have to be ensured to protect sensitive customer information like phone number when sharing with third parties. Phone number is no longer a public property. Businesses will adopt solutions like Number Masking to protect customer data.
-- Shivkumar Ganesan, CEO and Co-Founder, Exotel
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