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Article by Mohan Babu


Why broadband wireless should be reinvented in India

India, with its recently privatised telecommunication industry, is set to reap the benefits of wireless technology, if only we play our cards right and leapfrog directly into the digital age, writes Mohan Babu

For nearly a century, America has been at the forefront of the information technology revolution, but with all its advances, it is still found wanting in one area—ubiquitous wireless. The past decade has seen an astronomical growth in the usage of Internet technologies, along with the use of various modes to connect our “wired world,” including telephone lines, broadband, cable and increasingly, wireless. However, Americans have been trailing Europeans when it comes to the use and proliferation of wireless technologies.

I have a cell phone that supposedly has a “nationwide” coverage, but every time I go hiking in the Rocky Mountains, it goes blank. This irks me no end, especially because the whole idea behind my buying a wireless phone was to have the ability to call anyone, anytime from anywhere. And it is not just me complaining about the service. My friends and peers across the country seem to be in a similar fix. The problem gets more complicated because different plans offered by different wireless companies like AT&T, Worldcomm and Sprint are mutually exclusive, riding on their own private networks with different coverage areas and consumers are expected to use specific phones with specific services. Not exactly the most customer-focused system around.

You might be wondering that if the services are so bad and unpredictable, why are entrepreneurs not rushing to fill the gap. Have you seen American telecommunication sector stocks lately? With the downturn in the tech sector, entrepreneurs are not exactly jumping to seize this opportunity because of the lack of real demand. This is especially true because most people have access to excellent communication systems and networks that compete with wireless, and which are more cost effective. Large companies have excellent LANs and VPNs for their intranets; and for their external communications they are content to use huge broadband or T1 pipes. Individuals too have access to excellent phone systems that are ubiquitous across the country. It is only the road-warriors and people whose livelihood depends on travel, who are finding things difficult. But even they are not willing to pay a huge premium when it comes to the use of wireless technologies. In his famous essay “Is the information revolution dead?” Prof Brian Arthur says, “Information technology morphs every 10 years or so, so that what we thought defined the information revolution—batch processing, desktop computing, Web-based interconnection—is continually superceded by something new.” Similarly, wireless technologies are undergoing a steady, albeit slow transformation in the US. A trend that is not likely to be reversed anytime soon.

Indians, who assiduously imitate western technologies, are perhaps waiting for a signal from their American brethren when it comes to the use of wireless technologies. This is not to say that the techies there are not hyped up. On the contrary, even a year ago, when I visited India, WAP and “m-commerce” were extremely hot and hyped up. However, the focus of the sector has been to service their clients in the US and the crashing of the American market has led to a slowdown in the wireless sector in India too. This should not be so.

India, with its recently privatised telecommunication industry, coupled with a lack of world-class telecommunications infrastructure, is poised to reap the benefits of wireless technology, if we play the cards right. Instead of upgrading the existing infrastructure and antiquated telecommunication systems, we can leapfrog directly into the digital age by using the ubiquitous wireless bandwidth. There is a pent-up demand for world-class communication systems from multinationals operating from India who may not be content to use the unreliable networks with limited bandwidth. Telco’s entering the Indian market can bypass the huge investments in real estate, telephone exchanges and hubs and ubiquitous leased lines, and work on harnessing the available wireless technologies efficiently and in a cost-effective manner.

There is precedence for this: A year before cable Internet became popular in the US, Zee TV was already offering customers cable Internet in India, complete with rental modems and Internet accounts! We weren’t exactly following the American biggies, we were using the available technology, modifying it for the Indian market. If we could do it in Cable Internet, why not in wireless?




About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
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    For FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America, visit the Ask-A-Desi section

    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


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