India


“We must realize the fact that disasters threaten sustained economic growth of the society and the country.” These were the words of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani addressing the opening ceremony of the first National Disaster Risk Management Conference. The function, reported Associated Press of Pakistan, was organized to mark the Disaster Awareness Day observed annually after the catastrophic earthquake which struck country’s northern areas in October 2005, killing 73,000 people and leaving 3.5 million homeless. On the other side of the border Congress President Sonia Gandhi has said there is a need of effective disaster management to mitigate the woes of the people in future calamities, with floods affecting several districts of Bihar and other parts of the country.
An article entitled, ‘Teleuse at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Beyond Universal Access’, co-authored by Harsha de Silva and Ayesha Zainudeen, has been published in Telektronikk, a leading telecommunications journal, published by Telenor, Norway. Appearing in the journal’s second issue for 2008, aptly titled, ‘Emerging Markets in Telecommunications’, the article explores the extent to which “universal access” to telecommunications has been achieved  in Asia, based on findings from LIRNEasia’s five-country study of the use of telecommunication services at the ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’, namely in India, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Very high levels of access, but low levels of ownership are found. The paper then looks at the potential benefits that these non-owner users are missing out on, and then goes on to look at the key barriers to ownership that are faced by them. The paper estimates that there could be close to 150 million new subscribers at the BOP in these five countries by mid-2008.
Results for Indonesia in LIRNEasia’s Telecom Regulatory Environment survey show an interesting trend. Unlike their counterparts in other countries (Bangladesh, India, Maldives Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand) Indonesia telecom experts have given marks so low for different aspects of their regulatory environment that none of the categories, in any three sectors, meet the average of 3. (The options were from 1 to 5, 1=extremely unsatisfied, 5=excellent service) The one comes nearest is the score for Market Entry in the mobile sector (there are nine players in the market – eight national, one regional) but that too miss the average by 0.05 points. The results do not show a change from the previous (2006) scores.

RTBP m-Health Connect in India

Posted on September 20, 2008  /  2 Comments

This past week, our friends from the Rural Technology and Business Incubator (RTBI) of the Indian Institute of Technology showcased the Real-Time Biosurveillance Program (RTBP) at the Connect 2008 exhibition hosted in Chennai, India from September 11-13. The theme of this year’s event, which is the 8th episode, is – Global Competitiveness and Equitable Growth-Driven by Innovation”. The action research: Evaluating a real-time Biosurveillance program, being pilot tested in the state of Tamil Nadu, India and the District of Kurunegala, Sri Lanka over the next 2 years to come is an innovation emphasizing m-Health. The two ladies: Geetha G (left) and Suma Prashanth (right) in the news articel are managing the RTBP project in India, which includes developing the technology and piloting the ICT system with Village Health Nurses in rural Tamil Nadu. At present, the technology partners RTBI, Auton Lab (USA), and Lanka Software Foundation (Sri Lanka) are jointly working on developing the end-to-end disease surveillance and notification software applications.
The Aspen Institute has published a report entitled, ‘m-Powering India: Mobile Communications for Inclusive Growth’ co-authored by Mahesh Uppal and Richard P. Adler, which documents the discussions from the Aspen Institute India/ C & S Joint Roundtable on Communication Policy held in Kovalam, India in February, 2008. LIRNEasia’s Executive Director, Rohan Samarajiva,  participated at the event, which brought together senior representatives from the telecommunications industry, government and academia. The objective of the meeting was to develop policy proposals that would contribute to the development of low-cost and high-quality telecom infrastructure needed to facilitate seamless transactions of mobile commerce. A summary of the main recommendation (as documented in the report) is given below.
State-owned telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) Monday said it has decided to share its network with private telecom companies for roaming agreements. The company will sign the first roaming agreement with new telecom operator Swan Telecom, a BSNL internal circular of the management committee meeting said. This facility will enable subscribers to enjoy seamless connectivity throughout the country. “The memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this regard may be signed with the seeking operators initially for six months only on non-exclusive and experimental basis,” the circular said. The circular also added that the company would revise the initial charge of 52 paise a minute for every outgoing call after six months, and the incremental additional cost of the upgrade of equipment to provide roaming facilities will be borne by the private operators.

A world free from 9/11s and tsunamis?

Posted on September 12, 2008  /  1 Comments

Exactly seven years from yesterday (still today to some), early in the morning on September 11, 2001, nineteen hijackers took control of four commercial airliners en route to San Francisco and Los Angeles from Boston, Newark, and Washington, D.C. The hijackers flew two of the airliners, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center. Another group of hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. A fourth flight, United Airlines Flight 93, whose ultimate target was either the United States Capitol or White House, crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Telecom major Bharti Airtel today said the company hopes to start operations in Sri Lanka within this calendar year, despite the delay in getting interconnection from the local operators there. “Discussions are going on with the Sri Lankan telecom regulator and the existing operators there relating to the interconnection issue. It should be sorted out shortly,” company’s CEO Manoj Kohli told reporters here. “We should be in a position to start our operations there before 2008. It is as per our schedule,” he said.
The debate over Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum auctions and internet telephony comes at a time when international organizations and analysts are painting a starkly contrasting picture of the Indian telecom and IT sectors. Recent International Telecommunication Union (ITU) data reveals that the success of India’s telecom revolution is restricted to mobile voice with very little to showcase in fixed line and internet access, or high-speed broadband. For a country that is the global IT and ITeS capital or the world’s back office, its own internet penetration remains one of the lowest in the world. Forecasts are equally uninspiring, projecting high-speed internet access to remain abysmal till 2012. Internet broadband penetration will limp along to eventually reach a measly 3.
While some Asia-Pacific economies are world leaders in information and communication technologies (ICT) where broadband access is ultra-high speed, affordable and close to ubiquitous, in most of the region’s poorer countries Internet access remains limited and predominantly low-speed. This is what ITU’s Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Report for the Asia-Pacific region 2008 says. It was released at ITU TELECOM ASIA 2008, Bangkok, Thailand yesterday (Sept 2, 2008). The Report finds evidence that ICTs and broadband uptake foster growth and development, but the question remains as to the optimal speed that should be targeted in view of limited resources. The area in which the region really stands out is the uptake of advanced Internet technologies, especially broadband Internet access.
Barack Obama stands for Net Neutrality while John McCain sternly opposes. Internet should be open space, says Obama, for anyone to use any application of his/her choice without discrimination. That is like saying the roads are free for anyone to drive any vehicle they like at any time. It sounds good in theory. However, in practice it is a different story.
Bangladesh and India are set to compete for the same set of telecom investors with Bangladesh announcing auctions for Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum close on the heels of India unveiling its BWA policy. However, while Bangladesh’s policy is designed to attract fresh competition by keeping its existing operators and their shareholders (foreign and Bangladeshi) out of the spectrum bids, India has opted for a different route. India has restricted BWA bidding to only those who either hold an ISP or a unified access service (UAS) licence, thereby either forcing companies to acquire ISP/UAS licenses before the bidding or keeping away new entrants who are unable to acquire such licences due to price or time constraints. “Other contrasts are equally striking and show up uncomfortable flaws with India’s auction guidelines,” says a telecom analyst. While India’s BWA guidelines are just four pages, Bangladesh’s is a 57-page invitation for applications for grant of licence.
Aug 26, 2008, telecomasia.net Asia’s emerging markets, comprising eight nations, are expected to see mobile subscriber net gains of 573 million by end-2012, breaching the one billion mark to close the year at an estimated 1.06 billion subscribers, a report from research firm Frost & Sullivan said. In 2007, these emerging markets were home to some 487 million mobile users, accounting for 37.1% of Asia-Pacific’s total mobile subscriber base, the report said.
Indian mobile telecoms firms added 9.2 million users in July, taking subscribers in the world’s fastest growing wireless market to nearly 300 million, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said on Monday. Leading mobile firm Bharti Airtel signed up 2.7 million customers, enough for it to overtake state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd as India’s largest telecom firm by total subscribers, including fixed-line subscribers. Second-ranked mobile firm Reliance Communications added 1.
The complete opening of Internet telephony, as recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) a few days ago, will not only lead to steep fall in all type of call charges, be it local, national or international, but also help in increasing broadband penetration, an area where India lags behind. Industry analysts say person using Internet telephony to make calls would see his call charges falling by as much as 50-60 per cent compared to a normal telephone call today. This will benefit an ordinary home user as well as corporates and other industries alike. Internet telephony would help telecom penetration in rural India. Till now Internet telephony was allowed only between personal computers or to mobile or landlines abroad.
August has been a busy month for the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and its chairman, the redoubtable Nripendra Misra, a dyed-in-wool bureaucrat who has in his regulatory avatar done arguably more than any of his predecessors on the job. He has plenty of support and equally bitter critics who wish he would give up on forbearance, cut rentals, mandate cheaper roaming and ensure per second billing instead of per minute. On August 20, the authority allowed India’s estimated 295 million telecom subscribers the freedom to use different long distance service providers without changing their service provider. Two days earlier, it had unshackled internet telephony (voice transmitted over internet protocol networks). Two weeks before that, it had opened the doors for virtual mobile networks, virgin territory in India till then.