India Archives — Page 22 of 43 — LIRNEasia

A paper authored jointly by Professor Subhash Bhatnagar and Nupur Singh titled “Results from a study of impact of eGovernment projects in India”, was selected as the Best Paper at ICTD 2009 held recently in Doha. Our warm congratulations to Professor Bhatnagar and his co-author. Subhash, who is leading the work on one of our Mobile 2.0 components, had a 20 minute one-on-one with the Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates. ICTD 2009 was attended on a scholarship by Nirmali Sivapragasam of LIRNEasia.
Just five years ago, the Indian telecom industry’s massive momentum barely included the poor.  The country had slightly over seven access paths (fixed and mobile connections) per 100 people, but in rural India 100 people were served by only 1.5 access paths.  Even in urban India, the poor were unconnected. But now, the picture is different.
Proceedings from LIRNEasia’s Telecom Regulatory Environment (TRE) dissemination event,  held on March 6th, 2009, have been published in Voice&Data, India’s leading magazine on the business of communications, and also LIRNEasia’s collaborating partner for the event.   Over seventy key experts of the telecom industry participated at the event, with aim of understanding and sharing the key challenges in the Indian policy and regulatory environment and the solutions available. Delivering the keynote address, RN Prabhakar, member, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India explained the challenges faced by a regulator during the course of development. The event saw the release of the TRE survey, jointly presented by Rohan Samarajiva and Payal Malik. A panel discussion on ‘Challenging Policy and Regulatory Environment,’ was also held.
Impressive science is being produced as a result of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The focus now must be on creating systems within national governments that will allow the best use of science. Modeling data on projected tsunami arrival times (if any) were available to all on September 12, 2007. There is no evidence that the government’s hasty evacuation order took into account any of this information. A new mathematical formula that could be used to give advance warning of where a tsunami is likely to hit and how destructive it will be has been worked out by scientists at Newcastle University.
Not many are familiar with ‘line rooms’ in Sri Lanka’s estates. Fewer have ever visited one. These are the dwellings of the labourers – descendants of the migrants brought here by British planters from in nearby Madras state in India staring from 1827 to work in estates for meager salaries under austere conditions. Human development conditions have significantly improved since then, but some of them still call a 4 m x 4 m room with a smaller kitchen ‘home’. Meet Parameshvari.
As those who have followed the discussion on universal service fees on this blog know, universal service fees are usually charged from a company (actually the company collects the money from customers and gives it to the government). The payments go to dedicated fund, from which it is disbursed (or not, for the most part) to connect more people to the network. India has one of the highest universal service fees in the world–5% of total revenues. We were hopeful, after years of presenting evidence to the government, that this would be reduced (though our preference is for its complete phasing out). The reduction of the rate from 5% to 3% was almost done, but suddenly it has been halted due to Finance Ministry objections.
Since 2005, LIRNEasia has been critical of the very high amount (5%) charged from Indian telecom consumers through the operators and then left unspent in government accounts (approx. USD 4 billion at last count). Our criticisms were presented in multiple forms including a book chapter. We made them known to the leadership of the Department of Telecommunications in face-to-face conversations. Most recently, I discussed the harm caused by taxing poor people to purportedly serve poor people and then keeping the money unspent at a UNCTAD meeting on trade and regulation.
At the “multi-year expert meeting” on services, development and trade: the regulatory and institutional dimension, organized by UNCTAD in Geneva, there was rich discussion on the increasing importance of regulation in an environment in which services trade is assuming greater importance. As attention shifts to services trade (for example, the most important element of the proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between India and Sri Lanka, is the services chapter), there is of necessity a need to start looking at regulatory restrictions on services trade. Tariffs do not apply to services, so the only barriers are opaque, arbitrary and discriminatory regulatory provisions. This has been well recognized in telecom, with the reference paper on regulation being one of the key contributions to liberalization made by the GATS. The issue being raised at the UNCTAD meeting was whether there was value in exploring the regulatory aspects of trade in other infrastructure services.
Two surveys of India’s telecom regulatory and policy environments conducted in 2006 and 2008 by LIRNEasia show a dramatic increase in the score for universal service policies since the policy changes effected in 2007. From being ranked lowest among six emerging Asian countries, India now has close to the highest score for universal service policy and implementation in the mobile subsector, the most dynamic and important of all. What is also noteworthy is that the 2006 score for universal service was the lowest among the six policy and regulatory dimensions that were assessed then. By 2008, that unenviable position had been passed to the dimension of management of scarce resources (spectrum). The increase in the USO score in the fixed subsector was 36 percent; and in the mobile sector 64 percent.
The results of the 2008 TRE research were presented at a well attended event in New Delhi on 6 March 2009. The picture above shows Mr R.N. Prabhakar, Member of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India responding to points raised in the discussion. In the background are members of the panel, including LIRNEasia Chair and CEO Rohan Samarajiva.

India’s urban-rural telecom gap?

Posted on March 9, 2009  /  0 Comments

An AFP story published today talks about the Indian boom in mobile connections, despite all round economic gloom: a record 15m new connections were added in India in January 2009 according to the article. India’s “mobile revolution” is still mainly seen in the cities, but the real prize for phone companies is the vast rural market, where nearly 70 percent of the 1.1-billion-strong population live, analysts say. By the end of January, 34.5 percent of the population owned a telephone, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said.
Detailed findings from LIRNEasia’s Telecom Regulatory Environment (TRE) study conducted in 2008, have been published in Voice&Data, India’s only magazine on the business of communications, including analyses on the business, technology and regulatory aspects of Indian telecom and networking: Telecom growth is phenomenal in some emerging nations of the Asia Pacific region, but the risk attached to investments in each country varies. Pakistan scores the highest in five parameters, while India tops in one in the Telecom Regulatory Environment survey. Read the full article here.  Findings from the TRE study were presented in Delhi, India, last week, at a panel discussion, co-organized by Voice&Data.
In the third round, LIRNEasia has extended the testing to one more location. With that we have tested two packages in New Delhi (MTNL and AirTel), two in Chennai (BSNL and AirTel), five in Colombo (SLT ADSL, Dialog WiMax, Dialog 3G, Dialog 3G Unlimited and Mobitel Zoom 890) and two in Dhaka (SKYbd and Sirius). A strenuous task for five teams, no doubt, who took readings at different times staring from 8 am and went up to 11.00 pm (some had to spend nights at offices) but results are worth the effort. What did we learn?
LIRNEasia will present findings from the Telecom Regulatory Environment (TRE) 2008 study at a panel discussion today, in Delhi, India. Organized in association with Voice and Data, the event entitled, ‘The Challenging Policy and Regulatory Environment’, will be held at Le Meridien Hotel, Delhi from 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Contention Ratios varying from 1:50 and 1:20 (Can be relaxed a bit in residential as the links are not shared) is what LIRNEasia and TeNet jointly proposed, but Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) thought it best to adopt 1:50 and 1:30. According to ‘Guidelines for service providers providing Internet/broadband services for ensuring better quality of service’TRAI issued on March 2, 2009, ISPs are expected not only to maintain contention ratios above these values but also be open to subscribers on what they will deliver – instead of promises they cannot make. In addition we received some publicity from Indian online media. Good to know people start taking notes. More on LIRNEasia’s Rapid Response program here.
Given coincidence of the SAARC Minister’s meeting and the release of LIRNEasia’s twice-a-year price benchmarks, I was tempted to see how much progress had been achieved, with regard to the Colombo Declaration’s para 6 which called for low intra-SAARC international voice tariffs. Not much progress to report, unfortunately. On the fixed side, the only countries with intra-SAARC tariffs lower than to non-SAARC countries, are Bhutan and Nepal. Bhutan, because it has a special price for India (other SAARC prices are high) and Nepal because it has not changed its extremely high tariff structure (and the lower-by-comparison intra-SAARC prices). Lanka Bell in Sri Lanka offers low prices to India, but our methodology does not capture that, because we take the prices of the largest operator, SLT.