Sunday, August 31, 2008

Onus on Govt to transform telecom market

I have always been a strong believer and advocate of improving and enhancing the quality of services to the end-customer, which the government has always professed that they do, through their policies. For a very long time, India has been the most dynamic and fastest growing telecom and mobility industry worldwide, setting new milestones in adopting best practices, in technology upgradation and most importantly, in subscriber growth.

India may have been a late starter in starting mobile telephony services, but today is the hub of global telecom growth — several factors contributing to the present day base of 300 million mobility subscribers, moving rapidly towards 500 million subscribers, which we wish to achieve by 2010.

To achieve this grand target of 500 million, there are some basic elements we as industry players and the government alike must focus on — better systems, higher quality of services and modern technology, all of which will enhance productivity and make the lives of customers that much easier. It is all about the providing the very best to the customers — only then would the industry grow by the levels we want it to.

Among the various things that we have been discussing and debating are the early implementation of 3G technology, which is underway but needs more clarity in policy, the implementation of mobile number portability and a controversial but important policy initiative through MVNO. These initiatives are exactly what I have spoken of earlier — providing choice and giving them the best options.

We have been slow on the uptake on 3G, especially at a time when competing Asian economies such as China and Korea are already using or testing 3.5G or 4G. However, evolutionary enhancement and adoption of 3G must be preceded by adoption of something very basic — number portability. This concept gives me great pleasure, because it is customer friendly and stops cartelisation which I have always been opposed to. While customer retention may become a major challenge, it will ensure that service providers value and service their customers better.

On the issue of allowing MVNOs in, I know there is much debate and controversy, but there is no denying that there is a strong latent demand.

We already have Virgin Mobile in a MVNO-like mould, with reasonable success. With the growth MVNOs worldwide, we must take a leaf from the global book and encourage international players to enter into strategic alliances with existing spectrum holders and infrastructure players who have surplus capacity. I welcome TRAI’s recommendations that MVNOs be allowed in India while the issue is being hotly debated at all possible telecom forums.

I strongly believe that MVNOs will drive collaborative growth — between themselves, service provider and even network enablers or content providers — in all facets of the wireless market facilitating lucrative partnerships. It is high time the government took a mature stand on these subjects and resolved these issues as early as possible. We are waiting for that ballistic push that will transform the Indian telecom market.

( Dr B K Modi, Global chairman Spice Corp & Spice Group )

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