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Q. What is the most noticeable trend in the infrastructure scenario in India ?

A. India's telecom infrastructure is bound to grow. Many emerging cariers are investing heavily in laying the basic infrastructure to support network operations, and these backbone infrastructure will grow exponentially, with the increasing competition to provide basic telephony services in what was formerly a heavily-protected market sector.

With the passing of the NTP 1999 bill on convergence, a total outlay of Rs. 820 billion is aspected over the next couple of years. And since government has liberalised the types of technologies that can be incorporated, there has been a phenomenal response from market players looking to provide value-added services to their subscribers.

Q. What are the key drivers for the networking industries ?

A. The fiscal year 2000-2001 saw the networking industry reach approximately Rs. 3200 crore, a growth off over 50 per cent. Perhaps it could have done better, had it not been for the global downturn in the technology market, but it nevertheless outperformed many other sectors in the country.

The main driver in the networking industry is the Internet. The proliferation of Internet usage and subscriber demand for increased bandwidth has given a significant momentum to the telecommunications industry.

As far as networking is concerned, the key driver is the day-to-day increase in bandwidth requirements. A report by International Data Corporation (IDC) suggests that bandwidth demand has grown two-fold from 1.3 gigabits-per-second (Gbps) to 2.4 Gbps and is expected to increase to 35.4 Gbps by 2004-2005.

Q. In India, how would you rate the pace at which implementation of optic fibre backbone is progressing ?

A. A number of companies jumped onto the bandwagon after the 1999 convergence bill was passed. Many private sector companies had very ambitious plans to exploit the power of optical fibre transmission, but the business models of many companies did not seem to be in place and many of their plans had to be shelved. This, however, did not deter some of the players who were determined to provide basic and broadband services to their subscribers.

Q. As far as enterprises are concerned, how far-reaching are the changes that are taking place in broad-band space ?

A. Ethernet is the most preferred networking technology. In an effort to increase bandwidth, enterprises are shifting to Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet, but as far as last-mile access connectivity is concerned, the most prevailing and popular technologies are wireless and optical LAN ( Local Area Network ) and WAN ( Wide Area Network ).

While wireless LAN technologies like 802.11b and Bluetooth are gaining ground, optical LAN technology options are also providing the variety and bandwidth enterprises require.

Q. What are the top technologies that will impact enterprise networking ?

A. The top technologies that will impact enterprise networking will be wireless Internet and Optical Internet, With the need for these technologies driven by last-mile connectivity bottlenecks. The enterprise LAN ruled by Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet Technologies is unconcerned about speed, and is capable, because of its usage and management simplicity, of driving the data towards the core network at gigabit speeds for conversion to megabit speeds in the metro circle. The secret lies in extending the native speed of the LAN to the core network, and optical and wireless LAN technologies specifically address these issues. To provide enterprises with end-to-end broadband connectivity, Nortel Networks offers a wide range of industry-leading solutions.

Q. Do you think the general slowdown will have an adverse impact on business ?

A. The slowdown will have some impact on business, but the real slowdown is not about affecting the corporate bottom line, it is about negatively impacting the growth rate of the industry. While the slowdown does not imply a drop in corporate IT spending, companies will need to focus on cutting costs and reducing time-to-market. It is also possible this scenario may drive up IT spending a notch or so as companies leverage the advantage of being IT-enabled which, in every respect, helps reduce costs and increase time-to-market. Consequently, we see no real threat from the current slowdown, apart from the fact that business processes need to be rethought and a more realistic business model evolved.

Q. Is e-business a strong vertical right now for Nortel Networks ?

A. Yes, and we are rapidly emerging as one of the global leaders in the e-business marketplace. This is because business, in the future, is going to measure online success more by the quality of customer relationships than the quantity of online transactions. We are definitely aiming at that space, with the strong message that return on investment (ROI) is by-product of focusing on return on relationship (ROR).

Q. Why is the broadband implementation here slow ?

A. Broadband implementation appears to be slow because many of the emerging players who jumped onto the bandwidth bandwagon did so without actually giving it too much thought, and were carried away by the general optimism prevalent in the market at that time. But as luck would have it, the global technology slowdown seems to have spread its tentacles to India just as some of the local players have begun to emerge strongly. Nevertheless, the huge market for bandwidth that exist in India will be the key driver for its implementation in the near future.

Earlier, the market was highly regulated and government bodies did precious little to encourage broadband network development. Now, although the market has been opened up, business plans and models are not terribly robust because of such issues as PC penetration, computer literacy, and similar factors. This situation does not excite investors, nor does it persuade them to pump money readily into broadband. That is why we are going to see broadband initiatives coming from organisations with a long-term commitment and deep pockets to support this commitment. Government departments definitely have a key role to play, however, since they still control a very large portion of India's telecommunications infrastructure.

Q. Are you expecting a price drop in the networking / enterprise market ?

A. The networking market also experiences the same price-volume curve as the computing market, but as volumes grow, prices do drop significantly. Ethernet is the classic example. Today, 100 Mbps Ethernet was two years ago. It is all about economies of scale.

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