This perhaps generates more cynicism than anything else. Over the past few months, I have become increasingly bitter with the telecom landscape in India. We have “expounded myths” about “millions” materializing from thin air to headlines dominated by three major trends
1) Smart phones and Android taking center stage with Nokia dying a slow death.
2) 2G spectrum scam
3) 3G mess.
There are tonnes of web sites scattered all around to tell you about Android’s home coming. I am not getting in the debate about what is good or bad but Apple (across the lines) remains aspirational because of it’s perceived value.
2G Spectrum scam has also been mentioned extensively with the political fall out affecting Congress and it’s cohorts; again the debate has been frittered away to be of any consequence.
4G is on the horizon and as such the media reports were peppered with what technology to choose. There are of course competing issues; I am not qualified enough to explain the merits/demerits of each.
Another highlight of this year was the final recognition of menace of telemarketing calls and sms (with sms rates being usurious and companies raking in huge profits from what is essentially free for them). I have written about it earlier but there are others in space who have written about it more extensively (Rajesh Jain on Telemarketing and SMS Spam[1,2,3,4,5])
Mobile Number Portability (MNP) would be a big issue in 2011. Although it has been launched in Haryana, there are not enough media reports about the impact of MNP on the same. Is it surprising? With telecom companies leading in advertisement spends, they hold enough leverage to influence reporting the issue. Hence I would remain blocked out on the same unless it becomes a major issue. However, they don’t give a shit to the users because there is no REAL choice between the service providers. Most of the new operators have yet not launched their operations (and hence got notices for the same) so it is difficult to comment on the same. I foresee a lot of activity in next year in terms of new players and mobile number portability to affect them. Yet, with the rise of cheap “chinese manufactured- Indian branded” hardware with dual and three SIM card slots, issues like MNP don’t hold much promise. Hence this too would remain a lot of hot air with some speculation towards “power to consumer”.
I have written extensively to TRAI, Department of Telecom and various stake holders in media about why need broadband and what is basic policy flaw in the system. This has also been a subject of my RTI applications being filed with them. At risk of sounding repetitive, we all need a proper system for growth of the nation and that is a foregone conclusion. However, the system is designed not to provide but to deprive the users from opportunities. If public good were at the heart of policy makers (and politicians), we would not have been a kangaroo republic (mistaken for a democracy).
I fail to understand the stupidity of media houses not to push for all inclusive growth in Broadband; since their own very future depends on it. I have briefly toyed with the idea of setting up a NGO; there is no scarcity of ideas that need to be implemented. What is lacking in this space is will to implement those ideas. The whole scenario is lumbering around like a giant iceberg. Yet as monotony in this space grows, Internet access is fuelled by explosive growth in social networking to Facebook’s data servers. Here in lies the rub. Media in India is even lacking in this space and focusing instead to try out experiments in their own walled microdomains expecting the advertisers to come on in hordes and expecting to rake in millions of dollars from advertising click throughs.
However, this dream lies shattered with corpses of media houses dotting the landscape instead. Content is supreme and while we retain the numero uno position for generating mountains of crap in terms of bollywood export, this has not found a “release” except from traditional channels of multiplexes and to some extent, DTH. Instead, we don’t have a Hulu or Netflix like player capitalizing on this aspect of delivery. 3g cannot do it. 4g cannot do it. Wifi perhaps. Broadband on wirelines- definitely.
This blog has also seen some write ups on the need to tone up internet exchanges, need for TRAI to jig up it’s broadband policy and a call for Public Internet cafes. Interestingly, we also saw NDTV’s programme on broadband which we linked on to and perhaps the first in a long long time coming in from mainstream media. TRAI did talk about “fair usage policy” although in context of telecom tariffs. Another highlight was my post on online education and something on cloud computing in respone to Chrome OS.
This, by and large, what I had written with some guest posts. I have already filed in RTI application with BSNL as listed and I am awaiting their response. My only aim to get to root on pricing on Broadband, the mess and perhaps get a better deal on it in the long run. The first step is perhaps to re-define broadband from it’s present definition. I am also planning to involve TRAI in this loop along with perhaps Department of Telecom and see how they differ. Although TRAI is the regulator, the real power lies with DoT. Yet, it is a blame game that they are likely to play. DoT would say that TRAI has to come up with regulations first. TRAI would say that DoT is the real boss and they have to come up with a “circular”. No one wants to work and consumer gets the fuck of his life.
I have seen the Indians from close quarters. They would suffer all the insults with great temerity and humbleness. Perhaps it is the servile attitude that is ingrained in their psyche. Neither we are going to see a good amount of activism to make the public institutions deliver nor are the companies going to make any efforts to tone up their services. It costs real money to keep up with after sales service which actually eats up the profits and hence customer service is perhaps the last of ideas on their minds.
This post by itself is a huge huge post in a long long time! Maybe perhaps, I have written about trends subconsciously which I feel would impact the telecom landscape in some way or the other. The market is not geared towards course correction but is littered with asymmetric information to disadvantage of consumers. Sadly proactive approaches, either at regulator level or mass media or even at consumer level is sorely lacking.
The new year is not going to change this scenario in any manner whatsoever.