After 5G, Airtel to bet on industrial G for growth

After rolling out 5G services for mobile users, Airtel is now focussing on industrial G to drive growth. This includes the opportunities in the Internet of Things space, combined with a digital infrastructure the operator is rolling out.

“Innovations in the mobile space is pretty much peaked out. This is the reason why Airtel believes that instead of 6G, the focus should be on industrial G,” said a top source.

As Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel complete 5G network rollout by the end of this year, direct to customer use cases are still mostly a distant dream on the 5G network. 

This is problem that global telecom operators are facing ubiquitously, thus enterprise-specific use cares are where the next bets are being placed. Solutions for the industrial floor, such as IoT, is where Airtel hopes to find a substantial number of customers in the near future. IoT is a network of interconnected devices, such as sensors, thermostats and monitors, that are embedded to a physical object doing live computation in real time. Airtel is already installing IoT devices in electricity meters, in collaboration with players like Secure Meters. The operators has already connected over 20 million devices through its IoT solutions.

Airtel’s next-gen IoT business is achieving the fastest growth out of all the verticals in Airtel’s B2B business according to sources. IoT is shaping up in a very meaningful way for the B2B business, it is still small in comparison to Airtel’s communication business on the enterprise side. But it is also the fastest growing, said sources.

Airtel is also developing cloud computation and analytics capabilities in the IoT business, and is developing key APIs which will allow small startups and enterprises working in the IoT space to join Airtel’s IoT ecosystem with the end use case. 

Instead of developing focused 4G and 5G use cases in the enterprise space, a key direction for the company is to build platforms, which can onboard the final solution according to sources. 

For the most part, Airtel’s capex for 5G is going to reduce by next year as the nationwide network rollout is complete. Sources have told that Airtel has in fact completely capex for 4G and all of the capex is focussed towards 5G, however the company does not see end customer or B2C use cases for 5G shaping in a meaningful way in the near term. 

Another frontier for innovation for Airtel in this quiet phase in the telecom space is to build a data layer or platform that can merge all of Airtel’s digital capabilities such as payments, billing etc so that customers can have better access to them.

digital businesses

Sources claim that Airtel’s digital businesses such as Airtel’s Payments Bank, Airtel’s CPAAS solution Airtel IQ, data center business, cyber security business together account for nearly ₹4,000 crore of the firm’s revenue. However, it is also the fastest growing chunk of business for the operator contributing to ten per cent of the telco’s’ incremental growth. 

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