by September 30, 2013 0 comments

Authors: P K Sandell, D K Ghosh

Pages: 306
Price: 560
Publisher: Keshav Publications, Ghaziabad

This book gives you an in-depth account of how the telecom revolution in India rose to success and why it seems to have embroiled into a stalemate now. Both the authors are experts on telecommunication domain who served at senior levels in telecom sector in India. The book traces elaborately the policy developments that took place in the sector along with other factors that have together led to a revolution of billion mobiles empowering million Indians. However, the book is not just about the history of mobile in India, how it took off with millions embracing it, etc, it also narrates in detail the rural opportunities that telco together can unfold, the story of mobile broadband, the innovations the cellphones can bring about, inclusive growth that cellphone can drive, telco policies on the anvil and most importantly the story of how the revolution is set for a halt.

The most important part of the book is the rural opportunity and emerging ICT models that can reshape India’s economy. ‘With some 700 million Indians living in rural areas and small towns and the teledensity in urban areas at almost saturation point the next phase of expansion of telecommunications, specifically mobile phones, is bound to be in rural areas’, say the authors. They also talk about the businesses that are taking rural roads, ‘not just snacks and cosmetics, even the car makers are moving ahead keeping rural people in mind’. Corporations are showing interest here and we can can gauge this by looking at how corporations are pitching in for a rural thrust for their products assisted my wireless mobility.

Among the many such initiatives discussed, one such effort is from SBI which is experimenting with biometric smartcards to reach out to rural people at far reduced costs than through opening a branch office. The pilot project is based on mobile phones and smartcards that store thumb impression of rural account holders.

ICT can take all this forward, argue the authors while explaining the several IT-enabled methods. National Optical Fiber Network for instance, envisages provision of broadband connectivity to all 2,50000 gram panchayats on a pan-India basis. Though the objective of rolling out this project is to provide basic infrastructure for the advancements schemes, the government is keen to ensure that the investment should provide for adequate financial returns. ZTE, Motorola and Ericsson have developed their own rural network systems is an example of the growing interest of corporations and businesses on rural India.

The authors also delve deep into how the combination of microfinance and mobile phone is generating hope in several parts of the country. Giving references to reports, they put instances of how mobile phone is spreading the banking habit among the people at the bottom of the pyramid. A project run by mChek India Payment Systems has implemented mobile payments in the microcredit sector. The authors also shared the beneficiary side of the story.

Talking about mobiles’ unique application, they explain host of other services that the mobile phones can render to rural communities. Bharti Airtel, for instance has religious services, and as the mobile phone penetration in rural areas improves, this could be a huge money spinner for the telcos. Imagine a farmer in several southern states able to hear the worship chants from the most sacred temple at Tirupati. ‘If it costs say Rs 30/month, most Hindu families would subscribe to it’, the authors propose.

The book also carries a letter of appeal to the hon’ble prime minister from the industry which elucidates, among others, the big story of India’s telecom revolution that came to a halt which is a bad news for inclusive India.

Finally, the authors discuss about the decline of telecom revolution in India, clouds of future uncertainty hovering over the telecom horizon. Sam Pitroda, National Innovation Council Chairman, who released the book, says, Indian telecom sector is undergoing a transition phase and the next phase of the revolution is expected to be much bigger than the earlier one. However, the authors go beyond the rhetoric and explain the ground realities and the way forward.

You can read the book to have a comprehensive view of the current state of affairs of the telecommunication industry in India, possibilities that cellphone can bring about in coming days and the issues that are coming on the way of the revolution to leapfrog to the next level.

It’s an interesting read, I must say.

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