India's biggest telecom show may not feature Ambani vs Mittal this year

File Photo: (From left) RIL Chairman Mukesh Ambani, Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, and Bharti Enterprises Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal during the India Mobile Congress 2018 in New Delhi | Photo: PTI
If last year’s India Mobile Congress, considered the biggest telecom summit in South Asia, was about business leaders Sunil Bharti Mittal and Mukesh Ambani sharing the same dais despite intense rivalry, this edition will possibly be dominated by the upcoming 5G play and spectrum auction. The official agenda is silent on Mittal and Ambani’s participation this time, and the list of speakers is overflowing with the next-gen from big business groups.  

However, in a first, Home Minister Amit Shah is expected to inaugurate the India Mobile Congress, scheduled from October 14 to 16. Typically, telecom ministers inaugurate the summit.  

Shah heads several groups of ministers (GoMs), including the one to decide the revival package for Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephnhgone Nigam (MTNL).  The ministry that Shah heads also takes decisive calls on national security in relation to telecom operations as well as equipment and technology used in the industry. Currently, a decision on whether or not Chinese player Huawei can participate in 5G play in India is pending with the Centre.

Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), said besides 5G, the mobile congress would deliberate on the future of artificial intelligence in the country. The underlying theme of the event — 5G — would be showcased by both the telecom companies and original equipment manufacturers. And, equipment makers Ericsson and Huawei happen to be the main sponsors.  

Bharti Airtel will demonstrate live 5G network and digital solutions for smart businesses and smart cities of tomorrow at the event. The company will showcase the 5G network user experience along with pre-5G technologies such as Licensed Assisted Access (LAA). These high-speed network technologies of the future will form the bedrock of an emerging Digital India, which will have smart homes, smart cities and smart factories, Airtel said in a statement.

Young entrepreneurs including Isha Ambani and Aakash Ambani (Reliance Industries), Kavin Bharti Mittal (Bharti Enterprises) and Rishad Premji (Wipro) are expected to brainstorm on the next generation of digital wave.

Huawei, which has been in the midst of a controversy over issues related to security, will line up its used 5G cases. “We are very happy and excited that we would be able to conduct 5G trials at the India Mobile Congress,” a company executive said.

The three-day event would be attended by industry and government representatives, with discussions revolving around building digital infrastructure in the country.

The summit is meant to promote start-ups, innovators and enterprises, without losing focus on local manufacturing and drawing foreign investments. The idea is also to see a shift from India being a technology consumer to an exporter.

At the 2018 meet, Sunil Mittal had expressed concern over challenges such as high taxes and spectrum charges in the sector, while Mukesh Ambani had opted to talk about connecting everybody at the most affordable rates. On Monday, If Ambani and Mittal don’t turn up, shutterbugs may be disappointed even as they track as many as 36 sessions and 250 plus speakers through the next three days.   

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