India Archives — Page 8 of 43


In 1998, I was in the middle of an intense interconnection fight. It was worse than zero-sum. The Japanese incumbent telco which had purchased 35% of the shares of the Lankan incumbent telco had created a mindset that was extremely hostile to the competitive fixed telcos the government had licensed a year back. Interconnection disputes, where one party’s gain is seen as the other’s loss, are inherently difficult to resolve using even the best mediation techniques because of this. But in 1998 Sri Lanka, the problem was exacerbated by the desire of the incumbent and its Japanese mamagement to demote the parties requesting interconnection from equals to subordinate agents.
Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT)- The first smart city in India- is under construction at Gandhinagar in Gujarat. The proposed city plan includes ICT enabled infrastructure such as smart grids and automated waste collection. India has allocated 60 billion rupees form its annual federal budget for this financial year towards developing smart cities. Going by numerous comments made by the vocal online population, there seem to be a certain amount of skepticism about the  success of the planned city. Follow the link for more information on this in Reuters.

Spectrum debate joined in India

Posted on April 3, 2015  /  0 Comments

LIRNEasia’s Senior Research Fellow Payal Malik has fired a major volley in India’s spectrum debate aimed at former Minister Kapil Sibal. There is interesting discussion on her Facebook page. A competitive spectrum auction process facilitates the assigning of licences to the most efficient producers, aiding efficient aggregation of spectrum, and ensures efficient allocation of spectrum into services consumers value the most, thereby expanding the supply and reducing the prices of the wireless services most valued by consumers. Simply put, if tariffs didn’t go up in 2010 after the 3G auctions and in 2014 after the 2G auctions (which raised $14.5 billion and $10 billion, respectively) despite India having the cheapest data packages in any of the emerging economies, they should not go up now.
The Indian government has finally renamed its National Optic Fiber Network (NOFN) project as BharatNet. This belated re-branding is a good move, since the acronym was susceptible to distortion – “No fiber network.” Nevertheless, BharatNet aims to connect 250,000 villages and small towns (Gram Panchayats) via 600,000km of optical fiber network to provide broadband. Prime Minister Mr. Modi has formed a committee to “analyze the structure” of this INR720.
India used to be the center of gravity of everything we did at LIRNEasia. In terms of expenditure and effort, perhaps the center is shifting. But intellectually, the challenge of managing the asymmetrical relationship between Sri Lanka and India continues to engage. I was asked to write something for the visit of Prime Minister Modi. Unbeknownst, the piece had also been published in the government-owned newspaper: One subject that is likely to come up in the Modi-Sirisena discussion is the long delayed coal power station.
Modi Seeks Telecom Ministry to Speed Up Broadband Project http://t.co/Iz433L5HJ0 pic.twitter.com/6VvpnnVs65 — New Indian Express (@NewIndianXpress) February 8, 2015 When I saw the tweet, I thought Modi was going to takeover the telecom portfolio. Only to find it was a bad headline that had then crept into a misleading tweet.
India has excluded Assam and Manipur, two of its troublesome northeastern states, from the 17,500-km long Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) network. It has proposed a Bangladesh-Myanmar railway link via Tripura and Mizoram instead, according to Times of India. Indian policy makers now want to bypass the areas in Assam and Manipur. According to the new proposal, Dhaka should be connected to Jawahar Nagar in north Tripura, which is south of Mahisasan from where new lines will be laid to proceed towards Sairang in Mizoram from where it would be connected to an existing line at Ka Lay in Myanmar. “The UNESCAP plan is not final and there is room for modification.
The states in the North East of India have among the highest rates of English literacy in India. They also have very high unemployment rates. Now the government is planning to conduct least-cost subsidy auctions for those willing to set up BPOs in those states. As per the plan, the government is planning to set up BPOs, with a total of 5,000 seats, in Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. The government has set aside a budget of Rs 50 crore for the projects, which would be set up under private-public partnership.
It is a good thing that Digital India builds upon the previous unexecuted plans for taking fiber to rural India. What we said then, and what we say now is that the government must put teeth into the claim that NOFN will be “a national non-discriminatory infrastructure.” Give the private providers certainty by spelling out the terms and conditions of non-discriminatory access to the fiber. Australia made it too complicated, but there are lessons to be learned from that experience. Digital India weaves together a large number of ideas and thoughts into a single comprehensive vision.
Partha Mukhopadhdyaya is an expert on cities, having studied them in multiple countries including China and India. He also happens to serve on our scientific advisory board. Mint carried the first part of an interesting discussion with Partha on cities. When we talk about the insights from big data for cities, we naturally get slotted into the data for “planning” box. But I’ve always been wary about planning and also talk about experimentation using near-real-time and low-cost feedback.
Forbes India has just published a list of 24 influentials, in no particular order, according the author. We were pleased to see two colleagues with whom we interact a lot, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Sunil Abraham featured in the “top ten.” Our congratulations to this well-deserved honor and our wishes for more strength in the New Year in improving the quality of policy discourse in India, perhaps the most important and challenging of the countries we work in. Our congratulations also to Ajay Shah and Nachiket Mor with whom we have had limited interactions. We look forward to getting to know the others on the list.
Reliance on public-sector entities alone was identified as a critical weakness in India’s NOFN plans during the Expert Forum we organized in New Delhi in March 2014. The event had significant participation from senior Indian government officials. Did it, and other writings, make any contribution to the change in course described below? In a shift from its previous stance, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has now decided to rope in private sector for the ambitious National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN) project. The moves comes since it sees roping in the private sector as the only way out to meet the new deadline of March 2016 set by the government, as against December 2016 earlier, to complete the R21,000-crore project.
All the plans for advancing the lives of people in South Asian countries, including Internet access, are not likely to achieve fruition unless the electricity problems are solved. For this, one essential action is the the tapping of the abundant potential of the southern slopes of the Himalayas. Another is interconnection of the national grids of the South Asian countries. The Economist wrote about this, focusing on sub-continent, and leaving out Sri Lanka. A second reason, says Raghuveer Sharma of the International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank), was radical change that opened India’s domestic power market a decade ago.
The 2014 Measuring the Information Society report is out. No surprises at the top: Denmark is now at 1 and Korea is now 2; just changed places from 2012 ranking. Significant movement from the Gulf countries: UAE goes from 46 to 23 and Qatar from 42 to 34. UAE is almost too difficult to believe. No good news from South Asia, sadly.
I’ve seen larger numbers being thrown around but this seems to be the component that the Indian Department of Telecom will control through its BBNL special purpose vehicle. The Rs 20,100 crore national broadband network will serve as a countrywide optic-fibre pipe to provide high-speed internet connectivity across rural India while the Rs 30,000-crore-plus wifi-based e-services project aims to create a commercial ecosystem to recover the costs of building such rural broadband infrastructure. Since the national broadband project is likely to see a 40% cost-escalation to nearly Rs 28,000 crore, the combined capex and opex cost of executing both projects is internally envisaged at roughly Rs 60,000 crore by DoT. “Currently, BBNL’s role is purely B2B (business to business), in that, it will be a bandwidth supplier to telcos who will eventually ride on the national broadband network to deliver services. But if BBNL is also required to deliver broadband services, its business model will have to migrate to the business-to-consumer (B2C) format,” said another DoT official aware of the matter.

In the end, it’s all about mindset

Posted on November 12, 2014  /  2 Comments

LIRNEasia’s image is tied up with ICTs, thought from the beginning we wanted to be an infrastructure shop. Ports are infrastructure, and for the city I live in, perhaps the most vital infrastructure. So this piece fits. But the fit is even more from the mindset side. Everything we do as a think tank is intended to get people to think about problems (and solutions) differently.