5G key for India to enable a connected future

Sunil Rajguru
New Update

Damien Stephens, Associate Vice President, Mobility & IoT, Tata Communications, feels 5G will lead to the growth of embedded SIMs to manage the network connectivity of each car, ultimately ensuring a seamless driving experience.


What is the status of the global connected vehicle industry and how important will the implementation of 5G be for India to catch up with the rest of the world in that regard?

Connected vehicles are the new growth drivers of the auto industry. The global connected vehicle market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 14% and grow to US$ 122.51 billion by 2023 and the India connected car market is not far behind, estimated to grow at a CAGR of 22.2% and reach US$ 32.5 billion by 2025. As connectivity makes rapid in-roads in India’s transportation system, Internet proliferation supported by 5G will further boost this connected car market. Currently, the market is booming and automakers all over the world are investing in R&D to enable a connected future. According to a report by PWC, sales of 5G enabled vehicles are expected to reach 16 million in the EU, US and China by 2030 and countries world over are busy laying the framework for a 5G network. There is little doubt that it is pertinent for India to jump on the 5G band-wagon sooner to enable a connected future and bring in a new change of transformation.

Further, this wave of 5G will lead to the growth of embedded SIMs (eSIMs) in connected cars and make connectivity simpler. An eSIM will also allow car manufacturers to manage the network connectivity of each car, diagnose vehicle faults in real-time, and analyse driver habits and patterns to support the design of new vehicles, ultimately ensuring a seamless driving experience.


When do you think we can see regulation in allowing autonomous vehicles both in India and abroad?

There are different degrees of regulations across the globe and these vary at various stages of the vehicle’s lifecycle, right from development and testing, to deployment and launch. There are also variations depending on existing laws for motor vehicles, insurance, consumer protection, data protection, and cyber security.

While some countries, such as Netherlands and Germany, have passed comprehensive regulations to monitor the testing of autonomous vehicles (AVs), the U.S. Department of Transportation has passed laws for commercial platooning in some approved states only and a majority of freight ton-miles now occurs in platooning. India on the other hand, is the world’s fourth-largest auto market and is set to make a paradigm shift to autonomous mobility.

Though AVs and the necessary regulations are still in the future for India, law makers and automotive players need to focus on regulatory and privacy issues. At the same time, India has been toying with the concept of driverless vehicles and conducting experiments, such as driverless metro in Delhi, driverless pods in Gurugram and even driverless shuttles that will replace manually driven carts and mini-buses in university and company campuses, large industrial sites and other areas where suitable.


If we had self-driving cars, then we could do away with the driver and seats. That would lead to cars becoming mobile conference/hotel rooms. Then wouldn’t the entire industry itself change?

It’s well accepted by now that AVs are causing a paradigm shift in vehicle ergonomics and design. Future vehicles will witness interior design becoming the key brand differentiator and AV manufacturers would focus on creating an optimised technology platform conducive to passenger comfort, entertainment, productivity, and connectivity. Further, as connected technology begins to control the interior elements, there will be seamless data sharing between the passengers and the vehicle itself. This will result in soaring spending caused by dependence on software and electronics in the automotive supply chain.

In a similar vein, the auto industry could also be the next entertainment destination. This extends way beyond radio and video. Customers can potentially get everything in their car, and automakers are planning for this already today. There is high throughput capability going into vehicles and combined with 5G, this will enable cognitive-speed response times that will help to bring about autonomous vehicles. And when we don’t need to drive the vehicle anymore, we can sit and watch movies, or work, or read, or scroll through news feeds. This will impact all of us as consumers of course, but the impact on the automotive, telecoms, advertising and content/streaming industries will be immense.


What about electric vehicles in India and the challenge of setting up charging stations all over in a country as big as India?

The Indian government is continually pushing for faster adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) to achieve a goal of 30-percent penetration by 2030 and there are a number of incentives to support this drive. However, the gap between the price of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) and electric vehicles is hindering the mass adoption of EVs. This is followed by the lack of charging infrastructure, which is creating range anxiety among drivers. Thus, transpires the need to combine refueling stations with battery-swapping stations to make better use of available land and eliminate charging wait time. Further, there is also a need to standardise the country’s charging infrastructure considering that the existing norms require charging stations to install Europe’s CCS and Japanese CHAdeMO charging platforms, which will significantly increase the capital cost. Despite these challenges, major auto manufacturers are looking at this as an opportunity and have started testing the waters in the Indian market for electric vehicles.

What is the future of mobility apps and ride-sharing giants like Uber/Ola?


In the last decade, mobility has been the only sector in the shared economy that has truly flourished and impacted a large segment of the population. It has introduced a new way of commuting and reduced car ownership patterns among Indians significantly. Likewise, in the next decade, traditional elements of the automotive industry will witness a major disruption and mobility-as-a-service will experience accelerated adoption.

However, the future and success of mobility apps and ride-sharing giants depends on the technological capabilities that go in to each vehicle, including the much talked about 5G technology. AVs will become a new reality that will enable consumers to utilise the driving time to work, watch movies, read or do other productive or relaxing things. On one hand, this will open up new revenue streams for the telecom, advertising and content/streaming industries; while on the other, it will generate invaluable customer data that can be leveraged in multiple ways. As connected-car growth coincides with an expanding conversation about data, the value attached to the information collected from connected vehicles will open doors for infotainment and telematics. The ability to analyse data and make intelligent decisions will revolutionise businesses across sectors, improve lives and make cities more livable and mobility, more efficient.

Tell us something about your initiatives.


The Internet of Things has been a game-changer all over the world and has transformed how businesses work. As we continue to understand the benefits of this disruptive technology, there are concerns around security and privacy plaguing the sector.

What we identified was that organisations require truly global connectivity while ensuring the integrity and security of data to achieve cross border connectivity. This is where Tata Communications MOVE™ platform came into play. The idea behind the platform was to provide seamless connectivity and create an accessible usage agnostic, cross border mobile experience for people and things. A noteworthy part of the technology is that it overcomes the limitations of local cellular networks and offers services across local networks and country borders, underpinned by Tata Communications’ global wholly-owned IP network, which today connects 4 out of 5 mobile subscribers and carries around 30 percent of the world’s Internet routes.

Organisations can use this platform to its full potential in areas such as connected vehicles, fleet management or asset tracking which require massive bandwidth. To also accelerate development in connected cars we combined the IoT connectivity and network intelligence capabilities of Tata Communications MOVE™ with the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform to enable automotive manufacturers to offer consumers worldwide more seamless and secure driving experiences. Another key partnership for us was with Thales, a global leader in digital security to develop a secure global IoT connectivity solution.

Tell us something about DRVR, the Thailand-based international fleet management application provider


DRVR is a Bangkok-based start-up that provides a fleet intelligence platform for the logistics industry. The company was founded in 2015 to turn Asia’s vehicle fleets into the smartest and cost-efficient in the world. It currently operates in Thailand, Myanmar, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Indonesia, addressing a Southeast Asian market estimated at US$1 billion. Its ambition is to enable the smartest and most cost-efficient vehicle fleets in the world. At present the company is focused on using data analytics and gamification to improve the operations of its clients’ fleets.

They wanted to revolutionise their international fleet management by making it smarter, borderless and seamless. We partnered with them to help them achieve this goal through our MOVE™ platform. How this works is the vehicles in the fleet using the DRVR technology have been fitted with Tata Communications’ MOVE-IOT Connect TM SIM technology. The sensors embedded in the vehicle then transmit the data collected in real-time. The Thai based start-up then processes and analyses the data into actionable intelligence and improves cost savings.

The DRVR fleet intelligence platform uses smart IoT sensors equipped with Tata Communications MOVE™ SIMs for cross-border mobile connectivity. Installed in vehicles and vessels, those sensors reliably transmit usage data over the air (OTA). That reliability comes because Tata Communications MOVE™ gives network choice, so DRVR always gets optimal network availability with seamless connectivity from the best local mobile network. That OTA usage data is routed to the Microsoft Azure cloud-hosted DRVR application engine. Centred on DRVR-developed proprietary software, it processes the usage data into actionable, real-time intelligence to notify companies of how their fleets are performing. Via APIs, gigabytes of data are passed back and forth in the cloud between the DRVR software and customer ERP and CRM platforms. Products like MapBox Visions and HD Insights, which contribute to the augmented reality effects intrinsic in the DRVR user interface, are supplied by Microsoft as managed services.