3G is supposed to bring in a lot of services and revenues for a lot of people in the telecom ecosystem. The network providers, telecom operators, value added services providers, content providers and the all pervasive handset makers – all set to gain big in this 3G blockbuster.
Companies like Onmobile, Comviva, One97 and Cellebrum are gearing up for to launch their value added services for 3G. Video services, video telephony and mobile TV is another area which is set to explode.
3G launch is not impending in its strict sense. There is a good 6-8 months to go before the auction is done and the operators get their licenses and start their services.
Citing the 3G spectrum to be launched handset makers flooded India with various smartphone offerings. If we set aside the euphoria there is a deeper question which begs to be asked.
3G network and 3G services are different. My question – Is India ready for 3G services?
BSNL and MTNL have launched their 3G services in pockets and have 9000 and 400 subscribers. That is in hundreds and not thousands. That is a little scary but much can be blamed on the way the products are marketed. Can we take that as a skimming strategy and assess the demand for 3G?
More than VAS on 3G many operators would be happy to use the additional spectrum to beef up their voice offerings. Airtel and Vodafone are the most congested networks with more than 170 million subscribers between them. Call drops on these 2 networks are very frequent.
With the number portability around the corner the telcos would be happy to keep the existing customers. Of the 400 million mobile subscribers IN India almost 90% could care less about any of the fancy 3G services. Airtel is looking for the next 100 million in 3 years. It should not lose its current 100 million.
The spectrum offered to the Indian operators is the lowest in the world. In spite of this India is the largest growing telecom market in the world. How ironic?
There is a limit on the number of 3G operators which can operate in a particular circle. The number was 4-5 a year before. Now, there are rumors that each circle will be loaded with 11-12.
Qualcomm is waiting in the wings with its Kayak PC which connects to the Internet using 3G. India also plans to add 300 million mobile users in the next 4 years. What this means is the 3G network will be choked up in no time and we would be looking for the next auction of 4G.
Too many things are chasing too little spectrum. 3G is good but it is time for 4G already.