Thursday, June 29, 2006

Digital communications and India

When Wireless Application Protocol or WAP was launched in India in the year 2000, experts had prophesied that more people would access the Internet through their mobile phones than PCs in the country.

Six years later, with mobile penetration in India standing at 29 per cent (compared to China’s 73 per cent, Malaysia’s 54 per cent, Thailand’s 52 per cent, the Philippines’ 40 per cent, according to a Nielsen survey), that prophesy seems to be coming true.

India today seems to be gearing up for a boom in digital communications, aided by factors like falling telecom tariffs, affordable handsets and, more importantly, convergence.

“Mobile will be the only PC that many people will have in future as convergence is happening on the small screen in communication, computing, entertainment, health, etc,” said Qualcomm Chief Executive Officer Paul E Jacobs. He was making a presentation at a seminar on ‘Regulatory Issues in the Age of Convergence’, organised by Confederation of Indian Industry in Delhi on June 28, 2006.

Outlining the challenges for policy-makers because of the emerging technological trends, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Chairman Nripendra Mishra said, “Convergence has put serious challenges to regulators, who have traditionally worked in a limited technical scope. Every day, at TRAI, the policy that we envisage is being redefined to broaden the scope.”

Offering glimpses of India’s e-plans was R Chandrasekhar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Information Technology. He is one of the key architects of Andhra Pradesh’s IT success story (read my interview of Chandrasekhar).

“Paucity of infrastructure is a negative ‘advantage’ with India and, therefore, provides a huge opportunity,” said Chandrasekhar who now heads the e-governance project of the Indian Government. “The Government is planning 100,000 service access points by 2007. To provide faster connectivity to the villages, the Government has decided to provide the last-mile access through wireless connectivity.”

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