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Interview with Shivaji Chatterjee, Head, Enterprise Business, HCIL

May 13, 2016
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Hughes Communications India Limited’s (HCIL) satellite solutions have played a key role in meeting the growing broadband communication and networking needs of private and government institutions. Shivaji Chatterjee, head, enterprise business, HCIL talks about the VSAT (very small aperture terminal) market in India and the company’s growth plans…

What are the key trends and demand drivers in the Indian VSAT market?

The Indian VSAT market is growing at over 10 per cent annually, facilitated by government initiatives for rolling out communication services in remote areas,  considerable improvement in the socio-economic condition of citizens and corporate initiatives to achieve a better quality of life. Enterprise customers are looking at running data-intensive applications, while migrating networks to IPv6 with enhanced security. The government, on the other hand, is looking at maximising the reach of its programmes through VSAT. Its financial inclusion programme has given a major boost to banking systems growth across the country. Besides, there has been sustained growth in distance education and e-governance as well. A significant portion of HCIL’s growth over the past year has been the result of a strong upswing in the banking sector’s retail expansion (primarily ATMs) on account of the prime minister’s financial inclusion mission. We are also looking at venturing into other sectors like organised retail, gas retail and automation.

How have HCIL’s offerings changed over time to meet the growing needs of enterprises?

In order to meet the growing broadband communication and networking needs of corporates and government institutions, it is imperative to have robust satellite service coverage, solutions and capabilities. With HCIL’s strong network growth, we offer managed services with value-added services to position ourselves uniquely in the market. We also offer various communications solutions like virtual private networks and services for backup, multicasting, disaster management, hosting, network management and broadband. Bandwidth plans have also changed significantly over time, from a simple “pool” bandwidth for the entire network to more sophisticated “per-site” plans that cater to the unique needs of each site/branch.

What changes do you see in the uptake of VSAT services as the government’s Digital India and Smart Cities initiatives gain traction?

These are dynamic, exciting times for the Indian satellite telecom market with a significant increase in demand for several applications, most notably broadband/ VSAT. The government has put renewed vigour into the space programme with a view to revolutionise broadband connectivity using satellite technology. One of the most noteworthy of these is the Digital India initiative, a $20 billion programme meant to improve the government’s accountability and participation by connecting 1.3 billion Indians to the internet.

Under the Smart Cities initiative, the key element is the integration of the internet of things (IoT) with various elements of the city. The L-band and S-band satellite solutions are just the right means of enabling IoT in a ubiquitous and cost-effective manner.

How are you placed with regard to competition and what are your key challenges?

HCIL continues to be the market leader with a subscriber base of 104,055 VSATs as of September 2015, a cumulative market share of 40.71 per cent among VSAT service providers and a significant lead of over 18 per cent market share over the second largest VSAT operator in India.

In India, satellite transponders are still very expensive and capacity is not freely available. Besides, the game-changing high-throughput satellite (HTS) technology, which is the equivalent of 4G for satellites, is not yet available in the country. If we can get access to these HTS capacities under a free and open pricing mechanism, the Indian VSAT market would grow two to three times faster than it is at present and will enable the use of VSATs for many new applications like consumer broadband, mobility applications, IoT, BharatNet rural broadband and 4G backhaul services.

What is the outlook for VSAT services and what are HCIL’s growth targets?

VSATs have always played a strategic role in the country’s telecom sector. VSATs are similar to DTH (direct to home) in terms of utilising the unique advantage of satellites to provide reliable, secure services ubiquitously, to every part of the country. If the regulators permit the use of HTS in a free market, the complete potential of VSATs will be realised in the next few years itself. HCIL’s growth targets remain in the range of 10-20 per cent for the next few years, and can grow by two to three times if HTSs are freely permitted.

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