In this report

Strategic Overview



Awards and

and Analysis




GRI Index and UNGC

Governance Reports




Financial Statements



FY 21- Remarkable progress in a remarkable year

Enabling the upcoming decade of network creation

driven by 5G, FTTx and Rural connectivity

Building a new architecture for new-age networks on four technology confluences – Convergence of wired and wireless, combination of connectivity and Compute, Disaggregation of hardware and software, and closer to the Edge

Partnering with global network creators like Openreach, Airtel, Vocus and many more, to build networks of the future

Focusing on 3 growth levers of Growing optical business, Globalising System Integration and Building disruptive, open-source access solutions

Delivering solid financial performance

₹ 4,825

Annual Revenue for FY21


Growth in patent portfolio

₹ 10,700 Cr+

Order book with diversified global wins

Chairman's Message

Connecting humanity with
Networks of Progress

Dear Shareholders,

It is with great pleasure that I bring to you, the annual report of STL – Sterlite Technologies Limited, for the financial year 2020-21 (FY21). 2020 established the power of digital beyond doubt. To the extent that it significantly accelerated digital transformation that was underway. However, it also accentuated the gaps that remain in our society. Whether it is the migrant crisis or the digital divide that hindered equitable education, 2020 told us that there is still a lot to be done. As the world responds and prepares to be stronger, we are fervently working towards delivering future-ready digital networks that are resilient enough to bridge the digital divide.

The world is now fundamentally different than last year

Today, human lives are intertwined with technology in previously unimaginable ways. During the time of uncertainty, what has increased the most is our willingness to adopt technology for responsiveness and greater good. We have seen how digital technologies like data analytics, AI/ML, robotics, digital commerce, and IoT have been used for enhancing resilience and business continuity. Had it not been for 2020 and this crisis, it would have possibly taken years to make the power of digital so accessible and palpable for billions.

Come 2021, the real potential of ‘digital’ is waiting to be unlocked

2000s and 2010s were all about uninterrupted connectivity and speed and the rise of data. In these years, we witnessed the transition from 2G to 3G to 4G connectivity. Come 2021, we will transition from possibility to reality. This is the time to think beyond connectivity. Digital technologies would now become the means to solve the toughest world problems. Digital networks will now act as an enabler, an equaliser and as a springboard for future leaps. Technologies like precision medicine, autonomous driving, or conversational AI, demonstrate the need for digital networks that are fundamentally more evolved than the ones that brought us till here. In fact, technologists, academicians, industry and governments are all working closely to get the next half of the world online, by 2030.

STL will have a pivotal role to play, and we are ready to deliver

At STL, we have been preparing for this moment for a long time. New-age digital networks will be highly scalable, very agile and bring the best of optical, wireless and satellite technologies together. They will be more virtualised and also operate very close to the customers. These confluences are now a reality and require sophisticated design and integration. Over the years, we have been at the centre of technological evolution and have built the ability to integrate these networks. We have been pioneers in optical connectivity for over 25 years, delivered some of the toughest system integration projects for over the past 10 years and are making disruptive efforts on the wireless and programmability front. With a purpose that is closely aligned to our business and a heart that beats for people, we are ready for this upcoming decade of network creation.

We will transform billions of lives through digital networks

While continuing to connect, collaborate and innovate across the globe, STL is leading this front by taking the power of digital networks to billions. On one hand, we are building a new-age technology ecosystem and on the other hand, we are enabling access and adoption for the underserved, bottom of the pyramid communities. We are a part of the world’s largest digital inclusion drive and play a vital role in the nation-building process, not only in India, but all across the globe. This is reflected in some of our global partnerships for optical, FTTH, radio units and fibre rollout with reputed global players. I am extremely excited that STL will play a role in building this future! I would like to thank you for your ongoing support and look forward to our continued partnership in this journey – to become the world’s leading integrator of digital networks.

Letter to the Shareholders

Taking wonders of technology to billions

Dear Shareholders,

We hope that you and your dear ones are safe in these challenging times. The past 12 months have been extremely dynamic and eventful for a variety of reasons. With our agility to respond and sincerity to develop new solutions, we came out stronger and better prepared for the upcoming decade of network creation. While we faced challenges due to the pandemic in the first half of the financial year, STL recorded strong, sustained growth in the second half and strengthened its global position with long-term orders. We have an order book of over ` 10,700 crores with diversified global wins. All of this was enabled by an unprecedented year that solidified humanity’s belief in the technology of digital networks.

2020 – A year of technological leaps for the world The world

is in a technology warp. Things that we previously thought impossible are happening now. GPT 3, world’s largest AI language with 175 billion neurons, is set to revolutionise human-like content and machine learning. Satellite mega constellations are ready to beam the internet to the world and with recently demonstrated quantum supremacy, the possibilities of computing are set to expand to unexplored levels. Aren’t these all the wonders of technology? In years to come, there are sure to be more revolutionary products that will continue to change our lives. But before they become a reality, we would have to be ready with robust digital networks that would carry these wonders of technology to billions.

FY21 – A year of turning adversity into a springboard for us

Although 2020 was tough, it brought about one major transformation – an inflection point for digital networks. And the rest, they say, is history. We all know that these networks proved to be the backbone of society during the pandemic as an unprecedented number of users joined the internet on a daily basis. This internet gold rush was accompanied with strategic investments in digital networks across the world. Some of the notable investments included FCC’s allocation of $20 billion in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) in the US, Telefónica and Allianz Private Equity investment of ~$5 billion for FTTH build-outs in Germany and ~$4.5 billion for National Broadband Network (NBN) in Australia. The technology warp was true for the digital networks too. In 2021, technologies like 5G, FTTH and Open RAN went mainstream. These led to sustained growth in optical fibre demand. Already ahead in the technology curve, with capabilities around converged networks, disaggregation, compute and edge, STL, opened up the path for non linear growth for this upcoming decade of network creation. Here are some notable developments:

Big strides towards transforming billions of lives through digital networks:

This is not just a statement, this is the purpose that we live by. FY21 was a big step forward in this direction. We engaged with industry leaders, customers, governments and the R&D community to push the envelope for digital inclusion. We worked very closely with operators across the world to make large-scale rural broadband programmes a reality through deep fiberisation and access densification. We also took the baton for 5G readiness and built a technology ecosystem and an alternative supply chain for secure and open 5G networks.

• Deep and long-term engagements with customers:

Our larger vision backed by technology and R&D led to some multi-million dollar engagements with top customers across the globe. We deepened our 14-year-old relationship with the British telecom leader, Openreach to help build a connected UK, partnered with one of the leading telcos in the US for open source radios, and tested programmable FTTx with a large Asian telco. These partnerships will shape the network build outs for the next decade and open up new growth possibilities for us.

• Robust 5G solutions:

This year marked our entry into the wireless and 5G space with three significant product launches. We developed commercially viable open source indoor small cells offering, called Garuda, 5G multi-band radios, and vRAN solutions to kickstart our 5G journey. This was marked by the formation of our Access Solutions business unit, which will be dedicated to developing programmable, software defined and open source solutions for the 5G world.

• Relentless, IP-backed innovation:

This exciting journey was shaped by our fundamental R&D efforts to solve industry problems. During FY21, we exhibited 105% growth in patent portfolio, with our patent count touching 569.
In this tough year, a big part of our focus was on people’s safety and our commitment to customers. Despite the pandemic, we built mega-scale digital networks and demonstrated project delivery excellence. Project Varun (Navy Communication Network) reached 92% and Mahanet (Rural broadband) reached 98% completion. Not only this, we fast tracked our capacity enhancement to 33 mn fkm (by June 2021) and also strengthened our leadership team by hiring industry stalwarts globally. And this is just the beginning, we have greater plans for the future.

STL has its eyes on the future

We expect the growth momentum to continue in FY22. With commercially launched new products for optical and wireless networks, we have set up the stage for disruptive growth in the 5G era. In the preceding years, we prepared for technology confluences that are shaping the future of digital networks. Now, we are making foundational efforts in all the areas that matter to us as a business and as a part of humanity. Connectivity for us implies connecting every human at the bottom of the pyramid and that’s why we have a major focus on digital inclusion and are pioneering rural connectivity at large. Sustainable manufacturing is at the core of our operations as we believe in a ‘greener’ future. We are committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and our business decisions are guided by what is good for the planet. Some of the STL’s sustainable manufacturing initiatives include Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) of products, opting for a zero waste to landfill strategy, leveraging water resources wisely and reducing carbon emissions.

~$20 billion

Invested in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) in the US


Patents in FY21

The future hinges on solving core networking problems

The future of digital networks will be defined by 5G readiness, deep fiberisation and a shift to open and disaggregated networks. At STL, we have a deep understanding of the nuances of networks and with our end-to-end solutions spanning optical, system integration and wireless access, we are ready to solve networking challenges for telcos, enterprises, citizen networks and cloud companies. In future, our three strategic levers will drive growth for us:
  • Grow optical business
  • Globalise system integration, while scaling in India
  • Build disruptive, open source Access Solutions
As we enter this exciting decade of network creation, we take with us our successes and aspirations, and look forward to delivering the wonders of technology to billions. We would like to thank our employees, all STLers, for their commitment to our purpose. It is their alignment behind our strategy and dedication that enabled us to deliver on our promises. We also want to thank you, our shareholders, for your trust in us. We look forward to your continued support in this journey. We assure you we will continue to strive to transform billions of lives by delivering digital networks.

Customer and Solution Stories

At the forefront of the ‘Techscape’


Driving global optical connectivity

We all know how 2020 marked the beginning of an upcoming decade of digital network creation. These highspeed, low-latency networks will only be possible due to deep fiberisation that enables higher data capacities than ever before. We need optical solutions that can carry the ever-increasing data traffic load, can be deployed easily and reach every possible end point. With 25 years of leadership in optical engineering, precision manufacturing and material science, STL has cracked the code for fiberisation. The Company calls it Opticonn – the end-to-end solution portfolio for optical products. STL’s Opticonn solution portfolio comprises Optical Fibre, OF Cables, and Optical interconnect kits. It includes cutting-edge products like Celesta – a superengineered, high-capacity cable with up to 6,912 fibres, Stellar – an industry-best optical fibre known for its bend insensitivity, TruRibbon – an intelligently bonded cable for data centres and 5G. During FY21, STL further strengthened Opticonn with the acquisition of Optotec, an Europe-based leader in Optical Interconnect Products. The recent collaboration with Openreach is enabling gigabit broadband in the UK. With the Company’s Italy manufacturing unit, it is supporting the build-outs for the FiberCop programme and in India, STL is supporting the BharatNet initiative, to take broadband connectivity to 600,000 villages.


A super-engineered, high capacity cable with up to 6,912 fibres


An industry-best optical fibre known for its bend insensitivity


An industry-best optical fibre known for its bend insensitivity

Empowering digital transformation in the MEA region

The world is stepping into an era, which marks a revolution in intelligent connectivity underpinned by ubiquitous and robust networks. This will have a significant and profound impact on individuals, industries, society and the economy, transforming how we live and work. This has also driven digital adoption in the vibrant region of Middle East and Africa (MEA). Investments are underway to pave the way for a thriving digital economy. STL, as a leading integrator of digital networks, has always been at the forefront of nations’ digital-led socio-economic transformation. In MEA too, STL is building oases of transformation. It is engaging with leading telcos in the region to build robust future-ready digital networks.
Recently, the Company has partnered with a leading telecom service provider in the UAE for providing Opticonn, optical communication solutions and software services with deep customer engagement. STL will be offering customised and innovative optical fibre solutions with high fibre count cables and 5G-ready software solutions. These solutions will ensure that the telco significantly improves its fixed-line penetration in the UAE and advances its 4G, 5G and FTTx infrastructure. In addition, STL’s path-breaking industry-leading solutions will have applications in Smart Dubai City project and Smart Infrastructure for Greenfield projects, ensuring a complete transition from existing copper to fibre infrastructure.

Digital, with a difference – the new story of rural India

The ongoing pandemic brought forth the power of digital networks, but it also made us realise that digital access is not a given for millions. This realisation has become the central thought for connecting rural communities, world over. At STL, we have been closely working with the government to get high-speed broadband and meaningful rural use cases, to bridge the digital divide. With Mahanet, a rural broadband project under BharatNet, we have connected 17 million citizens across 4,000 gram panchayats in Maharashtra, but we are not stopping at just connectivity. STL believes that digital programmes must be able to increase opportunities and income avenues, improve the standard of living, and eventually bring villages at par with cities.
We are doing this through STL Garv, a digital platform for rural India, which will enhance the usability and impact of these broadband highways. Garv is taking meaningful services like telemedicine, e-tutoring, assisted e-commerce and e-governance to rural citizens and is creating a change, one life at a time. STL Garv has touched 53,000 rural lives and we are still counting!

17 Million

Citizens connected through Mahanet across 4,000 gram panchaya


Rural lives benefitted through STL Garv

Building data centres that are timeless!

In 2020, humans and machines created 64 ZB of data, which is 3,100% greater than data created in the last decade. To put it into perspective, in 2020, there was 40 times more data in the datasphere than observable stars in the universe, and this is not the endgame. This figure will nearly double by 2024. So it is not surprising that end user data centre spends are pegged at $200 billion in 2021. Super-engineered data centres need to be built really fast and they need to get smarter, greener and more secure.
While the world is busy creating data, STL is busy designing, building future-ready solutions, across the data centre ecosystem. With its fast and cost-optimised build outs and well-structured in and out networking, integrated ICT and containment solutions, STL has enabled some of the biggest hyperscalers across the UK, the Nordics and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) regions. It recently completed the construction of its first two data centres in South Africa and three more are planned in 2021.

STLer Stories

A stellar workplace for the STLers!

STL, a great place to work

What makes a company a Great Place to Work? Trust leaders establish in their employees; Pride employees have in what they do; and Development they undergo at their workplace. It is all these factors that got STL Great Place to Work® (GPTW) certified for the second consecutive year. The Company made significant progress in all the key parameters. In a difficult year, its Trust Index went up by 6 points. STL performed higher than India and Global Top 100 companies on multiple parameters. This consistent recognition from GPTW is a testament to its commitment in building a culture of care, inclusion, transparency, and trust that enables and empowers employees to excel at their work. Isn’t this truly STLer!

In it, stronger, together

If the past year has taught us anything, it is to value people. As the pandemic spread its tentacles, STL came together to ensure the safest workspaces for people working from plants, projects and homes and fostered a culture of care and empathy. It launched STLCare, a cohesive programme to provide resources for STLers and their families to help them safely navigate the pandemic. STLCare enables employees with credible resources for telemedicine, at-home care and COVID-19 testing. The Company also rolled out a set of benefits like enhanced insurance, advance salary payouts, and mental health support through one-on-one counselling. Through this programme, and through STL’s genuine comradeship, it was able to emerge stronger, together in this unprecedented year.


A cohesive programme to provide resources for STLers and families to help them safely navigate the pandemic

Skilling it for the next decade of network creation

Highly sophisticated networks need a pool of highly skilled network professionals. The year 2020 saw STL Academy taking huge strides towards creating a talent base to drive the new age of digital networks. The Academy entered the most coveted Guinness Book of World Record by attracting 2,123 professionals for F-Tech 2.0, an online workshop on fibre optics. It also launched 5G Empower, an initiative to train over 1,00,000 women on 5G technology. Over the next few months, STL Academy will train 5,00,000 people from rural India on different aspects of digital technology including fibre optics, trenching and ducting, Fibre-to-the-Home, among others.

1 Lac women

Empowered with Next-gen skills

Management Discussion & Analysis

In the driving seat for the upcoming decade of network creation

Last year was truly unprecedented. COVID-19 impacted individuals, economies and businesses alike. STL also witnessed its impact in terms of lukewarm growth in the first 2 quarters. But, with continued technology innovation and deep customer engagement, STL regained momentum and recorded 18% y-o-y revenue growth in the second half of FY21.

FY21 has propelled digital adoption to a whole new level, which is expected to continue unabated well after the pandemic ends. This has resulted in the accelerated acceptance of emerging digital technologies among ordinary people and has opened up a decade-long network creation cycle. Although many aspects of human interaction have shifted online, the digital divide continues to exist between citizens as a result of different levels of access to technologies.

Resilient data networks are the new normal

The pandemic clearly gave way to a new mantra for the industry – Pivot or Perish. Digital transformation became a necessity for businesses rather than a choice. Since then, new records of data usage are being set and broken almost every quarter, making 2020 as a year of inflection for digital networks. Here are some numbers that substantiate this: –
  • ~2 million internet users were added in 2020, a 17% growth over 2019, beating the last ten years1 (2009-19) average of 7%. Digital transformation deals saw a 30% jump2; an 80% jump in cloud spending, and a 15% increase in customer experience since the pandemic
  • India’s digital landscape is buoyant. There is a massive surge in data with ~60x traffic growth in the last 5 years which was further catapulted by COVID-19. In December 2020, the average monthly data usage per user touched 13.5 GB3, growing by more than 20% annually

Digital acceleration, leading to a multi-year network build cycle

Owing to the shift in the ways of working and modern living, digital connectivity has become the backbone for all kinds of services – be it delivering healthcare, education, banking or governance. This is resulting in an ever-increasing demand for reliable and high-speed networks, triggering off a multi-year network creation cycle across the globe.
It is being led by a multitude of industry participants, including telecom operators, cloud companies, large enterprises and citizen networks.

Telecom operators

As work from home became the new normal due to COVID-19, it propelled telecom providers into the sphere of essential services for most consumers. The importance of ultra-reliable connectivity got heightened for at-home, work, school and social interaction, necessitating telecom providers to upgrade their existing networks as well as create new infrastructure to provide a secure, reliable and high throughput network. The operators are taking big steps in this direction. In 2021, telecom industry will see $1,791 billion4 in revenues and $292 billion in CapEx, for an average capital intensity of 16.3%. This next wave of CapEx infusion is driven by aggressive 5G and FTTH rollout plans.

5G networks

5G networks are the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, offering connections that are significantly faster, highly agile and reliable.
As per GSMA, by 2025, 5G will account for 20% of global connections, with take-up particularly strongly across developed Asia, North America and Europe. To support this generational shift, operators are expected to invest ~$1.1 trillion worldwide between 2020 and 2025 in mobile CapEx, roughly 80% of which will be in 5G networks.
More than 144 operators in 61 countries/territories have launched commercial 3GPP-compatible 5G services. This number was just 56 operators in 31 countries/ territories at the end of 2019. Currently, 413 operators in 131 countries/territories are actively investing in 5G networks. Among those, 65 operators are investing in standalone 5G networks5.


Anywhere between 600,000 to 1 million new 5G base stations, expected to be deployed in 2021

South Korea

In July of 2020, Korean mobile operators SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus agreed to invest a total of $22 billion through 2022 to boost 5G infrastructure across the country


Top three telecom operators in the US namely Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile bid $78 billion on 5G airwaves licensing. Verizon is planning to spend $17.5 billion to $18.5 billion in network expansions in 2021. Dish invested more than $50 million for 5G in Q4 FY20 and expects the 5G network deployment to cost about $10 billion, in its SEC filing


Orange activated 5G in 160 cities; Bouygues Telecom initially launched 5G in 20 cities; Iliad launched 5G services in December 2020 and SFR in November 2020


India’s mobile operators spent a combined $11 billion on spectrum in the country’s latest auction

FTTH networks

The need for higher speeds and low latency requires operators to build dense fibre networks. This year saw a greater push by governments and large private equity firms to disproportionately invest in broadband networks.
The US government allocated $170 billion to increase broadband access, especially in rural and suburban areas. While the Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security (CARES) Act and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) are funding for broadband access in the next 2-3 years, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) aims to provide more than $20.4 billion over the next 10 years to connect unserved rural areas
France has allocated €570 billion ($690 million) to roll out fibre to the country’s rural areas, with the aim of achieving full coverage by 2025
Strong investment growth expected at Telefonica, TIM, Oi, Net/Claro, alongside ambitious FTTH connectivity plans. Notable connectivity projects such as Programa Norte Conectado, which aims to connect 9.2 million people in the Amazon region through a 10,000 route-km of optical cable, planned over the coming years
Deutsche Telekom is joining forces with the US financial investor KKR to accelerate fibre rollout by creation of JV Open Dutch Fibre, with an initial investment volume of € 700 million. KKR has made investments in FiberCop in Italy, Hyperoptic in the UK, Deutsche Glasfaser in Germany, Telxius in Europe and Latin America, Hivory in France, Global Technical Realty in Europe, Bharti Infratel in India, and Pinnacle Towers in the Philippines

Cloud companies

Cloud companies continue to invest heavily on network creation in the form of hyperscale data centres and sub-sea cable networks to power data intensive applications. By the end of 2020, there were ~600 hyperscale data centres – twice as many as there were 5 years ago. Notable investments in hyperscale data centres include:
Amazon and Google opened most of their new data centres in the past 12 months, accounting for 50% of the total amount of new hyperscale data centres opened in 2020

Google opened its second data centre in the Netherlands in December 2020, taking its total data centre investment in the region to $3.06 billion. In 2021, Google plans to spend $7 billion+ on US data centres and offices.

Microsoft announced investments to establish a new data centre region in Denmark and to open its sustainable data centre region in Sweden in 2021. It also announced its first Azure data centre region in Taiwan in October 2020.

Amazon announced investments of $2.8 billion to build its second data centre region in India. This will allow Amazon to launch an AWS cloud region in Hyderabad by mid-2022.

Large Enterprise

In October 2020, the US Department of Defense said it would spend $600 million for 5G experiments and testing at a few military sites, after increased efforts by China to make 5G a reality in many defence applications, following investments in artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing and under-sea cables.
India has built expansive and secure defence networks across tri-forces like Naval Communication Network (NCN), Army Radio Engineered Network (AREN), Air Force Cellular Network (AFCEL), and Air Force Network (AFNET). The three wings of the armed forces are keen to harness 5G to augment AI and the use of unmanned vehicles in their battle to measure up with the best in business, worldwide. In October 2020, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) cleared a project worth ` 7,796 crores to establish a secure communication network for the Indian Army that will include modern optical fibre cable links to forward areas.

Citizen networks

Access to broadband is a critical lever for the growth of our knowledge economy and accelerated development across economic, business and social indicators. It has the ability to meaningfully impact the life of every citizen by enhancing convenience and improving accessibility to quality services (banking, healthcare, education), along with providing employment avenues. As such, governments across the globe are investing in subsidising network build-out to provide access to high-speed broadband, especially in rural and unserved areas. Here are a few data points:
  • In early-December the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced winners of Phase 1 bidding of the giant $20.4 billion Rural Development Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Total $9.2 billion in funding is awarded through the auction and the aim is to connect 5.2 million unserved homes and businesses around the country
  • In the UK, telecom regulator Ofcom unveiled a host of financial incentives to help achieve the government’s goal of creating a ‘gigabit’ Britain. After the announcement, BT has committed to investing £12 billion in getting faster broadband connections to 20 million UK homes, including in remote rural areas
  • India is working on connecting at least 2.5 lakh gram panchayats (GPs) with optical fibre under the BharatNet programme, which is under implementation. The government has also taken various steps to provide online education amidst the pandemic. These include PRAGYATA Guidelines on digital education, internet access under BharatNet scheme, etc. Internet access under the BharatNet scheme has been made available to the government institutions. The CSC e-Governance Services of Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MEITY) has been assigned the task of providing FTTH connectivity to the government institutions, including schools
  • These data points adequately substantiate the investments and implementation trajectory of digital networks. We are indeed at the cusp of a multi-year network creation cycle. The question is whether we will see ‘more of the same’ or something fundamentally different in the world of digital networks? We are of the opinion that future networks will be architected very differently, following these four technological confluences that are now working together seamlessly.

Financial Highlights

Exhibiting Resilient Performance

In this singular year, where businesses across the world were impacted, STL showed resilience during first half of FY21 and recorded 18% y-o-y revenue growth in H2 FY21.

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