India Archives — Page 12 of 43 — LIRNEasia


In my recent visit to Colombia to assess the ICT sector for the OECD, I found that the Office of the Controlaria (Auditor General) was playing an increasingly central role in telecom policy, second-guessing decisions by policy makers and regulators years after the fact, for example requiring a Mayor responsible for the decision by a municipally owned telco to introduce ISDN many years back to compensate the municipality out of his personal funds for the resulting losses. The broader issues of government ownership raised by this story are discussed in detail in my LBO.LK Choices column. The Indian Comptroller and Auditor General was involved in telecom regulation from the 1990s, for example claiming that TRAI under the leadership of Justice Sodhi was negligent in not optimizing government revenues through BSNL. It played a decisive role in the 2G scandal that has been dragging down the Indian telecom industry for the past 2-3 years by making an inflated assessment of the losses caused.

Preconditions for cloud services

Posted on May 11, 2013  /  0 Comments

The demand for massive data centers close to consumers will increase rapidly as cloud services proliferate and data traffic increases. Yet, they will not emerge everywhere. Just having cheap renewables-based electricity is not enough, as is shown by Singapore and Dubai becoming attractive sites. A whole eco-system is needed. “There is major demand coming from IT-enabled service providers, online portals, e-commerce companies, stock brokerages, and insurance firms,” said Sunil Gupta, president and chief operating officer at Netmagic Solutions, a data centre company which was acquired by Japan’s NTT in January 2012.

Why telecom privatization is good

Posted on May 10, 2013  /  3 Comments

Sri Lanka and Pakistan partially privatized their incumbent fixed telecom operators more or less at the same time competition was introduced. India, Bangladesh and Nepal did not. Bad move. The lumbering monsters could not compete. The sad state of the Indian incumbents who have been fed more subsidies than it is possible to imagine is thus described.
It takes guts to question protectionism, but I guess it’s not that difficult when you are in the Prime Minister’s Office: The Prime Minister’s Office is worried about the IT and Communication Ministry’s policy of encouraging domestic manufacturing. The PMO has sent the Ministry a note asking for comments on how the policy aims to link manufacturing requirements to national security. ‘MARKET DISTORTIONS’ “Efforts to link manufacturing with security is questionable. It will lead to distortions in the market. Security objectives can be met through audits, tests and need to be handled separately,” states the note sent by the PMO.
On the second day of the training course organized by PiRRC in Apia, Samoa, I made a presentation on the available regulatory solutions to the problem of market power associated with submarine cable landing stations. The countries covered include Hong Kong SAR, India, Fiji and Mauritius. The slide set: Gateway pricing Apr 2013.
India’s Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has strongly recommended amending the law and making Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) truly effective. It observes that ‘once TRAI forwards its recommendations, the government is at liberty to accept, reject or keep it pending, without citing any tangible reason.’ The JPC found that many TRAI recommendations were ignored by the government for a long time and in some cases the government’s decision was not even communicated to the regulator. In the opinion of the committee, an independent regulator cannot be effective if its recommendations are to be left entirely at the mercy of the government. Therefore, the committee are of the unequivocal view that government should decisively respond to the recommendations of TRAI within a (time frame) as it is currently mandatory for TRAI to respond to a reference by the government within 60 days.
Last week The Hindu, in its editorial, has urged for a secondary market in spectrum trading. Having minimum download speeds of 2 Mbps, as opposed to the current standards of 256 Kbps, is contingent upon operators having access to adequate spectrum. Mobile companies in the US or Japan typically have 30-40 MHz of spectrum, compared with the 5 MHz or so available with Indian operators. With an active secondary market, operators can plan their capital investments through an optimal mix of airwaves between what they may want to ‘own’ and what could be ‘bought’ out. Such assessment can, moreover, be made on a continuous basis, unlike now where capacity creation is a function of official decisions on spectrum auctions.
All submarine cables connecting the Far East with Europe and Africa transit at India. It has made 12 submarine cables (six owned by consortiums and six privately-owned) hopping into 10 cable landing stations (CLS) at the Indian seashore. Voice and data traffic of 27 international long distance operators (ILDO) are processed through the 10 CLS. Four (Tata, Airtel, Reliance and BSNL) out of the 27 ILD providers own respective CLS in India. The ILDOs who don’t own CLS told TRAI that Tata Communication and Bharti Airtel together enjoy a 93% market share.
Thomas K Thomas has been covering Indian telecom issues for a long time. His reflections on the lessons that need to be learned from Indian spectrum policy since 1994 are worth a read: Back in 1994, when telecom licences were given out for the first time, a flawed auction design allowed non-serious players to bid astronomical sums and then default on payments. In 2002, operators were given additional spectrum on subscriber-linked criteria without any upfront fee. This was the first time anywhere in the world spectrum was given based on number of subscribers. In 2008, the then telecom minister A.
There is so much wrong with the IDI. It gives a higher ICT development rank to Cuba (106) and Zimbabwe (115) well ahead of India (119). I ridiculed the predecessor of the IDI in the past, but they keep churning it out unfazed and people keep paying attention, which then causes me to pay attention too. There was even a fuss in the Bangladesh media about how that esteemed country managed to get itself excluded from IDI coverage in 2012. Few months back I promised to analyze the S Asian IDI rankings in more detail, so here goes.
Asia is said to the last redoubt of belief in the Westphalian state. The Internet is fundamentally incompatible with the notion of a national state (legislature, executive and judiciary) having untrammeled authority over all that went on within its boundaries. It is therefore understandable that government officials have trouble dealing with Internet policy. But as stated by this observer of the Indian process, it appears that Indian officials have overcome these handicaps, thanks to vibrant stakeholder engagement: But a subsequent close engagement on their part with the government seems to have borne fruit. The positions that were put forward in Dubai by the Government of India in the end were far more nuanced, effectively taking into account many of the concerns that civil society and industry had put on the table.

WCIT: The debate continues in India

Posted on December 26, 2012  /  0 Comments

Many countries left the final decision on the ITRs to officials. In some case like Kenya, the officials applied their minds. In too many developing countries, it was a knee-jerk response based on maximizing national control and/or loyalty to the ITU. India is different. “ITU should only focus on telecom sector and not get into information and communication technology as they have tried to do through the Dubai convention last week,” said Subho Ray President of Internet and Mobile Association of India.

Who signed ITRs and who did not?

Posted on December 14, 2012  /  2 Comments

In the morning there was a report that the great Asian democracy, India, had not signed the ITRs. Now it looks like it did. Looks like poetic babus played a double game. Kenya’s brave lone stand is extraordinary and can be explained by what it has to lose if the Internet ceases to be seamless, as I explained in an oped in the Business Daily in October. But there are surprises: Qatar and Egypt?
I have been studying how to make Internet affordable and resilient across the developing Asia. Excessive reliance on submarine cable is the bottleneck. My study shows how to overcome it by deploying fiber across the continent, exploiting the transcontinental highways. But the control-freak governments, attending WCIT 2012 conference at Dubai, have deepened the crises of Internet. James Cowie of Renesys Corporation has categorized the countries being vulnerable to different levels of Internet shutdown risk (Click on the map).
Just a sample: The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), which represents the $100-billion IT and BPO industry, has strong views against the Internet governance model of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names (ICANN), but favours self-regulation. Its president Som Mittal says: “NASSCOM does not favour oversight by an existing U.N. organisation like ITU. Internet and infrastructure have to be in the hands of expert organisations with proven experience.