For 5G rollout, optic fibre deployment is essential: Cisco chairman

Cisco Systems chairman Chuck Robbins said the company does not want to use Huawei's troubles with the US as a selling strategy, and downplayed operators’ concerns that banning the Chinese gear vendor will push up capital expenditure.

In an interview with ET, Robbins said he expects India to be among the early adopters of 5G but that hinges on faster and wider fibre deployment in the country.
Edited excerpts:


What kind of revenue opportunity does 5G provide for Cisco?
We have committed $5 billion in funding to help build 5G networks over the next three years to help our customers accelerate their 5G deployments. Today, we are working with lots of them on architectural designs, providing packet core technology, and we expect to see a bigger impact from 5G as the number of users and devices begin to ramp-up.


Some believe Cisco stands to benefit from the US ban on Huawei. Your view?
We have informed our teams internally that in no way should we be actively leveraging the geopolitical situation as a selling strategy. We need to take the high road and focus on the needs of our customers.


Should India follow the US in barring Huawei?
These issues are solely between them and various governments. We have many competitors globally as well as in the US, so we continue to be laser-focused on executing our strategy of delivering innovations that enable our customers to securely run and grow their businesses in an era of 5G, IoT, multi-cloud, and AI.


Telcos argue that disallowing Huawei will increase 5G capex. Your view?
There are plenty of innovative vendors out there, like Altiostar, who have developed new technologies that reduce capex costs and create simplicity for mobile providers. Between them, channel partners, and funding options like the $5 billion we have committed, we believe there are plenty of cost-efficient options to roll out 5G.


How important is India as a market and what are the chances that India won’t miss the 5G bus?
India is one of the largest telecom markets in the world and I expect India to be one of the early adopters of 5G. Several leading providers are already working towards this. The value of 5G in India is even higher than in advanced countries as it enables India to jump straight to ‘smart infrastructure’ that comes at a lower cost but with faster delivery. 5G is going to have a significant impact on segments beyond mobile broadband, such as smart cities, robotics, self-driving cars, healthcare, agriculture, and education.


How are you enabling Reliance Jio fulfil its 5G ambition?
India offers vast opportunities to telecom operators. Moreover, with the advent of 5G, opportunities in India will explode. All service providers understand this and are investing in technologies that will help them address emerging opportunities. Cisco is working closely with many such telecom providers across the world and in India.


What must India do to ensure early roll-out of 5G?
The ‘Digital India’ programme is on the right path with enabling policies and effective execution by involving all the stakeholders. For 5G rollout, I believe the OFC (optic fibre cable) deployment is essential for largescale deployment. India currently lags the global average when it comes to fibre-connected infrastructure, and the government can play a vital role to help accelerate fibre deployment in the country.


With a slowdown in telco spend worldwide, do you expect market to bounce back within a year?
We feel that in 2020, we will start to see some uptick in telco spending as larger-scale network buildouts relative to 5G will hopefully begin. However, with capex spend overall down by almost 20%, we'll have to wait and see how it plays out.


(The reporter is in San Diego at the invitation of Cisco Systems)