Indonesia, as the largest archipelago in the world, has vast digital potential. To drive the digital economy, the Indonesian government officially launched the roadmap called "Making Indonesia 4.0". Smartfren, one of Indonesia's leading telecom operators, is well on its way to digital transformation. "This (digital transformation) is to ensure that telecom acts as the foundation to all communications/transactions and learning," said Shurish Subbramaniam, CTO of Smartfren.
In an interview with ZTE Technologies, the Smartfren CTO delved into the operator's accomplishments that encompass the operator's two-pronged approach for digital transformation, the industry 4.0 use case enabled by 5G, and also shared with us his considerations for 5G deployment.
How has the telecom industry evolved in Indonesia's market?
The telecom industry in Indonesia remains very competitive. ARPU pressure remains as a challenge. In the current pandemic situation, demand for data and digital solutions is high as well so service providers are continuously developing innovative products to support the consumers.
How important do you think is the digital transformation of businesses, especially in the post-COVID-19 period?
Transformation here will be related more to introductions of digital products or solutions to the market for both the consumer and enterprise. This is to ensure that telecom acts as the foundation to all communications/transactions and learning.
Customer experience is important for every operator and a key focus of a telco's digital transformation. How about your improvements in this area?
Customer experience is key to all telecom service providers and customers are demanding high service quality and innovative products. I can break it down into two parts: network and digital.
For the network part, we have enhanced our automation platform where we created multiple algorithms to ensure we automate key network related activities as much as possible to avoid any unwanted human errors that will impact customer experience. The automation being done for operations is to perform efficient maintenance as well as the planning & deployment for efficient execution and fast response to consumer demands.
For the digital part, we introduce more data analytics platforms with artificial intelligence for in-depth understanding of consumer's needs and behaviors and in return continuously develop new-age products to support new digital transformation.
In Smartfren we have started both the automation and data analytics journey to be ahead when it comes to customer experience.
What new-age products have you launched to support the digital transformation and tap into new revenue streams?
We have invested in connectivity management platform (CMP) to introduce IoT services. With this CMP platform we will be reaching out to enterprise customers to enable them to digitalize some of their services, i.e., working with power utility companies to introduce smart metering.
How are you supporting the Industry 4.0 roadmap known as Making Indonesia 4.0?
We have successfully completed the 5G (28 GHz mmWave) trial using a drone with 5G backhaul as the use case. This was done by partnering with ZTE to demonstrate Industry 4.0. The drone here was used to troubleshoot a fault inside the factory where human movement is limited. We are looking forward for the right 5G spectrum allocation where we can start introducing more use cases to support the revolution.
What's your 5G roadmap in terms of SA and NSA and what technology or business challenges do you foresee?
5G remains a challenge in Indonesia due to availability of the popular spectrums. Indonesia being a country with multiple islands, still has a need for the spectrum to be used by satellite operators to provide necessary services. The 5G spectrum will be available once spectrum re-farming is completed. For now, I believe 5G will initially start with DSS technology using the existing cellular spectrums.
What is the most important 5G use case and what vertical will benefit most from 5G in Indonesia?
eMBB will be the main use case for 5G to provide higher spectral efficiency and deliver higher throughput and capacity for mobile users. Beyond that the other use cases will be around enterprise solutions focusing on manufacturing sectors.
What kind of role is ZTE playing in your 5G journey? What's your expectations for it in the future?
ZTE is our biggest partner when it comes to network solutions. We expect ZTE to ensure all new deployments are capable of upgrading to 5G seamlessly.