How can telco operators rise to the growing IoT market in India?

Our study reveals that India will be a host to 1.9 billion IoT devices in the next two years, three times the number now.

With this threefold increment in such a short time, it serves as a call to the telecommunication providers. They have a huge role to play in the coming years to support and enable the digital transformation.

This number is especially striking because globally, the growth in the device units by 2020 is supposed to be anywhere between 24 to 50 billion (GSMA estimates 24 b, ABI Research 30 b, and Cisco 50 b connected devices). Hence, Indian telecom operators are looking at an abundant and growing market at home.

Telecom operators are, therefore, in a serious need to make sure that their networks retain the ability to cope with projected increases in data traffic, especially in urban areas.


It is a challenge especially as the Indian IoT market is at a nascent stage and the market ecosystem is highly fragmented. Challenges are in –

  • Volume: The growth in devices will increase the volume of data. Preparing businesses to manage the volume and velocity of data transfer is going to be a challenge.
  • Data Privacy: In such a situation, data security is going to be a tough task despite strict measures as the history demonstrates with many DDoS attacks in many big companies.
  • Diversity and integration of data: While data transfer speed is a concern, so is the diversity of the devices that will create it. Deployment of different services devices from different vendors and lack of interoperability could be cause challenges.

Initial steps have already been taken

For example, Tata communications are on their way to build Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN) technology across 2,000 communities that will affect over 400 million people. Telco providers in India are being supported by Nokia with a telco-driven approach considering the IoT prospect in the country.

In November 2017, Vodafone India launched SuperIoT (which enables in creating sound industry ecosystem) platform, which consists of features like tracking – asset (fixed and mobile), vehicle, and even people (school students and employees).

Changing Business Models

Besides that, telcos can lean on various business models to deal with the situation in the best way possible.

One approach could be providing a broad menu of M2M services where telcos focus on common elements they can provide for multiple vertical markets. That could mean connectivity, traditional telco offering, but also different areas such as hosting, support and application enablement. The benefit of this approach is that telcos can build on scale and play to their strengths.

Another could be telcos selling their own solution in selected vertical markets, either developed internally or gained through acquisition and to control the service end to end. Though in this approach, the operators not having the internal knowledge and expertise to develop a solution of their own might be a challenge, they could earn high revenue.

If they achieve success in this venture, then they might move ahead in the technology value chain beyond the consumer perception of ‘connectivity provider’ or ‘SIM Card’ provider.

Though they have to work to work to develop capabilities to provide solutions befitting to the name, what can’t be denied is that it is an exciting time for Indian telecom operators, as they are looking at IoT market that could reach close to $17 billion by 2021.

Sachi Mulmi is a researcher with Frost & Sullivan. She can be reached at

Sapan Agarwal drives content and marketing for Frost & Sullivan. Sapan is based out of Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and can be reached at | +603 6204 5830

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s