|Mobile – more than just voice in India
|QUALCOMM India and SAARC
Kanwalinder Singh is the President of QUALCOMM India and SAARC. Prior to his position at QUALCOMM, Mr Singh was Chief Technical Officer with Lucent Technologies India Ltd. He has also held various technical and managerial positions in Bell Laboratories and product units over his 11 year tenure at Lucent Technologies in New Jersey (USA). Mr Singh completed his Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering at Bucknell University, Pennsylvania, USA and PhD coursework in Computer and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York. He is a graduate of the Executive Development Program at Wharton School of Business, Pennsylvania.
India is adopting mobile technology rapidly; Indian consumers now enjoy the most affordable handsets and lowest tariffs in the world. Beyond voice, wireless can significantly transform society, particularly in rural areas, by enabling Internet access to communicate, learn, access healthcare and reach global markets. With 3G wireless broadband, a wide range of Internet services and benefits will become available. According to the ITU, for every one per cent increase, Internet connectivity has twice the impact of voice on GDP growth.
India has experienced rapid growth in socioeconomic development in the past decade. The telecommunications sector in India has undisputedly played a significant role in enabling this growth. Today, the number of mobile subscribers has grown almost 20 times, from 5.7 million in 2002 to more than 100 million today. The country has overshot teledensity targets set by the National Telecom Policy 1999 by 2.5 per cent and teledensity currently stands at 16.6 per cent (Source: TRAI the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India). There has also been a significant increase in competition in India due to the entry of CDMA technology in 2002. This competition has helped to decrease tariffs by 88 per cent and increase teledensity by 10.7 per cent between 2002 and 2006 (Illustration I). It is remarkable to see the fast pace at which the focus in India is shifting from wired to wireless. Wireless technology offers India the flexibility and increased options that come with mobility and it is beginning to affect our daily lives directly. Beyond offering voice communication, the wireless industry can contribute significantly to a positive societal transformation, particularly in rural areas, by enabling access to the Internet so people can communicate, learn, access healthcare and reach global markets. In the words of the Honourable President of India, Dr Abdul J Kalam, at a recent telecom summit, “Until recently, benefits of the telecom revolution touched mainly the cities and towns. Now it is time for the telecom growth to penetrate into the rural sector to democratise access and bring happiness and prosperity, overcoming all geographical barriers.” We believe that 3G will be the catalyst for the next level of growth of the telecom industry in India. Not just a mobile phone The mobile phone as a tool for enabling broadband and differentiated communications services is slowly gaining acceptance in India. The mobile market initially focused on affordability, but is maturing as consumers demand more. Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy, and it is now about the ‘experience factor’. Affordability, variety, functionality and compelling form factors are the keys to consumer satisfaction. The integration into the mobile phone of high-speed data computing, audio, video streaming, cameras and information presented as graphically rich content will make the mobile device a ubiquitous access point for users. Today’s mobile – more than voice and text Differentiated services offer operators their next real growth opportunity. According to the Mobile Value Added Services Report, released by the Internet and Mobile Association of India and IMRB International, the mobile value-added services industry could be worth nearly US$1 billion by the end of 2007, up from the current US$639 million. With urban markets nearing saturation and operators facing decreasing average revenue per user, ARPU, mobile data service is significant for operators. Today, operators in India hope to create new ways to increase their ARPU by offering innovative wireless services, including mobile broadband. According to the CII-Yankee report, Enabling India’s Broadband Economy the 3G Way, TATA, a leading Indian telecom operator, expects VAS, value-added services, revenue to grow 60 per cent per year for the next four to five years. The report observes that much digital content is becoming multimedia based. The larger operators in India have already established wireless portals (examples include Airtel Live, Tata Zone and Reliance Mobile World) that cater to this need. These initiatives have succeeded in driving increased data usage in an industry where voice dominates. The advantages of 3G As India makes the transition to 3G, convergence will become a reality. By the end of the decade, the distinction between voice and data will fade, voice will be transmitted as data packets and high-end data applications will offer a wide range of services and benefits for consumers. This trend is clearly demonstrated by the increased adoption of 3G in Asia and other parts of the world. With 3G, wireless network operators will be able to capitalize on increased voice capacity, lower costs per user served, increased ARPU and greater product differentiation. 3G technology will provide benefits to participants in the wireless value chain. Device manufacturers can leverage the enhanced capabilities of 3G networks to sell larger volumes of premium wireless devices. 3G technology’s data capabilities will also open up an enormous world of opportunity for application developers and content providers. Today in India, we are seeing a growing market for interactive applications such as gaming, mobile contests, regional applications such as news in different Indian languages, Bollywood theme games and religious applications; these are available on most handsets, from entry-level to high-end. For consumers, 3G technologies bring a more rewarding wireless experience, including high-quality, low-cost voice service and valuable data services whenever consumers want them, and wherever they have mobile connectivity. Enterprises can leverage 3G’s advanced data capabilities to gain critical competitive advantages, such as increased productivity, streamlined processes, improved customer service and enhanced communications. With the Indian government’s focus on introducing 3G wireless technology in the country, 3G is a near-term reality and no longer a distant possibility. The quick acceptance and implementation of recommendations on 3G spectrum given by TRAI will expedite the deployment of 3G in the country. We believe the recommendations made by India’s regulatory authority are inclusive, forward-looking, will motivate the operators to value spectrum and will strengthen the overall wireless market in the country. TRAI’s recommendation can be implemented if 3G spectrum is made available. Therefore, there is an urgent need to make spectrum available for operators in order to launch 3G services quickly and bring the benefits to consumers. 3G for all According to the ITU, for every one per cent increase in Internet connectivity the impact on GDP is twice that of voice (Illustration II). Moreover, with a population of more than one billion people and 70 per cent of the population living in rural India, there needs to be an emphasis on bridging the urban-rural teledensity gap. The digital divide in teledensity is widening (33 per cent urban vs. two per cent rural teledensity) and can intensify social disparities. There is a need to promote wireless broadband and other efficient technologies and motivate operators to provide a myriad services to the consumer, both rural and urban. India is a highly price-sensitive market, so 3G must be made affordable. In the past six years, increased volumes and competition have resulted in Indian consumers enjoying the benefits of the most affordable handsets and lowest tariffs in the world. Today, both voice and data applications are available throughout the country. Worldwide, we have seen 3G handset prices come down rapidly. We anticipate a similar trend in the Indian market for 3G and are working aggressively to enable even lower-cost devices. Rose Telecom has announced phone prices as low as US$30 for the Indian market and more products and services are being launched for rural consumers. For instance, Reliance recently launched Grameen phone services on a fixed wireless phone, FWP. Tata Indicom has launched an information-based application, Dainik Samachar, in 11 Indian languages, bringing daily national and international news to its customers. There is a common misconception that 3G is only for high-end consumers. On the contrary, 3G can bring affordable connectivity benefits to some of the most underserved areas in the world to enhance their competitiveness, governance and efficiency in the areas of education, healthcare, disaster relief and public safety. QUALCOMM’s Wireless ReachTM initiative, in cooperation with the ITU’s Connect the World initiative, is aimed at developing strategic public/private partnerships that bring the benefits of connectivity to developing communities globally. For instance, in Vietnam, Wireless Reach has joined with industry partners to equip community technology and learning centres in 64 provinces with computers, software, training and Internet connectivity via 3G CDMA technology. Similar benefits have been brought to underserved communities in countries such as China and Indonesia. In India, significant progress is being made to connect rural communities through the Wireless Reach initiative. In July 2006, an alliance was formed with the NASSCOM Foundation to provide wireless Internet connectivity solutions to 65 Village Resource Centres under NASSCOM’s Rural Knowledge Network Program. Wireless Reach supports the Indian government in meeting its information and communication technology goals by working with our partners to provide affordable, high-capacity mobile data and voice services in urban and rural areas. This, in turn, will bring socioeconomic benefits to local communities. 3G is inevitable and India is readying itself to ride the 3G wave. The wireless industry is flourishing and its key characteristic is constant innovation. As the necessity of widely available mobility increases and a new mobile lifestyle emerges, India will play a leading role in the adoption of next-generation networks and devices that drive the development of 3G across the wireless industry. The most exciting aspect of 3G is that its full potential is just being realised in India and there are many benefits that have yet to materialise. From Asia and Australia to Europe and the Americas, the benefits of new 3G-related products and services are growing exponentially.