India Archives — Page 9 of 43 — LIRNEasia


In May 2007, I made a presentation to high-level committee appointed by the government of Bangladesh to recommend reforms to the way international telecom traffic was handled. I neglected to spell out what BPO stood for. “What is BPO” was the question from the audience. Seven years later, Bangladesh is ranked 26th in the AT Kearney Global Services Location Index. That is great.
In the design of India’s broadband initiative, it was said that one thing was non-negotiable: the work had to be done by state-owned enterprises. Knowledgeable people advised the government that this would slow down implementation. And so it happened. Now the new Minister is hiring 10 CIOs to push implementation (including much of the eco system), setting realistic time targets and upping the spend from USD 7 billion to USD 17 billion. And taking all the credit, as is customary.
I have always been intrigued by the differences between South and South East Asian countries. We saw this over and over again when we did the Teleuse@BOP surveys. But playing around with some numbers for Facebook users in four South and four SE Asian countries, I was astounded. In all the SE Asian countries, there are more Facebook users than there are Internet users. In the case of Myanmar, the multiple is 4.
I have been inclined to give the new administration the benefit of the honeymoon period, but surely this is nuts. The previous administration placed all its eggs in the BSNL basket and got egg in its face for its pains. Not only did they extract enormous amounts as fees, they delayed procurement and did not give INC anything ICT to talk about during the election campaign. Now the BJP is going on that same well-trodden path: The telecom department is aiming to complete setting up of a pan-India optic-fibre network by June 2016, a year ahead of the stated schedule of the project that is critical to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Digital India’ initiative. The Department of Telecommunications has sought the views of public-sector telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd whether it can complete the National Optical Fibre Network ( NOFN) project by then, according to an internal note seen by ET.
Governments provisioning e government services have to address two specific policy principles with regard to infrastructure: ensure universal access to their services and assure a higher level of reliability than with comparable private services. I will leave the second principle for later discussion. Unlike a decade or so ago, governments today do not have to rely solely on common-access centers (telecenters) to provide universal access. In most countries, mobile signals cover a significant proportion of the population and prompt policy action can increase the percentage quickly; many households have at least one electronic access device; the few that do not, can gain such access. Today’s smartphones have capabilities little different from the early telecenters, except for functionalities such as printing, scanning, etc.
It appears that unlike the previous government that was not of one mind regarding the centrality of mobiles, the new government has accepted it. The Digital India project that aims to offer a one-stop shop for government services would use the mobile phone as the backbone of its delivery mechanism. The government hopes the Rs 1.13-lakh crore initiative that seeks to transform India into a connected economy to also attract investment in electronics manufacturing, create millions of jobs and support trade. In an interview with ET, telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to ensure a smartphone in the hands of every citizen by 2019.

Indian regulator leaves OTT alone

Posted on August 20, 2014  /  1 Comments

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has decided not to regulate over-the-top (OTT) providers, such as Skype, Viber and WhatsApp. The mobile operators claim that such apps will annually cost them  over US$822 million in lost revenues, as subscribers prefer to use free voice and messaging apps. Therefore, they demanded to regulate the OTT providers either for a revenue sharing scheme or a fee system. The TRAI, however, believes that mobile operators recover their losses through growth in data revenues. As a result, the regulator has decided not to take any action against the OTT providers.
Usually one has only the time stipulated in the consultation paper to prepare a response. In this case, the Chair is giving extra time to intervenors to get organized. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chair Rahul Khullar on Wednesday said the authority would come out with a consultation paper on broadband next month. The objective of the broadband consultation paper would be to revisit the broadband target identifying right broadband technologies, involving private and public participation, and achieving new milestone in a cost-effective way. Speaking at an ASSOCHAM event today TRAI chairman said India needs new policies in place to achieve the goal set by the new government.
The policy statement of the new government headed by Narendra Modi promised to continue the NOFN initiative and work toward a Digital India: “We will strive to provide Wi-Fi zones in critical public areas in the next five years. My government will rollout broad band highway to reach every village and make all schools e-enabled in a phased manner. … Social Media will be used as a tool for; participative governance, directly engaging the people in policy making and administration.” It appears the first public WiFi zone has been implemented at Khan Market, a pricey shopping zone frequented by expatriates. The second site in Connaught Place.
If not for a degree of regulatory duplication, it’s possible that the AT&T breakup that transformed the entire telecom environment would not have happened. On the other hand, it’s the general competition regulator who did the job that the sector regulator failed to do. Nevertheless, countries that have limited human resources to deliver effective regulation and have a need for certainty, cannot afford duplication and forum shopping. Here is an interesting reflection from Payal Malik and a colleague on the current situation in India: The Supreme Court in Subrata Roy Sahara vs Union of India lamented the posturing antics of litigants aimed at forum shopping. It has stated that such antics result in cases “which ought to have been settled in no time at all, before the first court of incidence, [being] prolonged endlessly, for years and years, and from court to court, upto the highest court”.
A World Bank Report describes the problems faced by India as it seeks to power its economy to higher performance. What can be done? “Power is a very sensitive issue and it is tough to build consensus around reforms,” Pargal said. “We therefore lay out a menu of options for the government to consider.” Welcoming the study for highlighting the numerous complexities of the challenge within one report, Jyoti Arora, Joint Secretary in the power ministry, said a lot of thinking is going on regarding power issues in the government.
In all network industries,the core problem is the peak. Peak is what drives investment and costs. But in Sri Lanka, even the valley is becoming a problem. The laws of physics require every electron that is produced and distributed over the grid to be also consumed. We lack adequate demand in the middle of the night.

Digital India

Posted on June 10, 2014  /  0 Comments

The policy statement of the new government headed by Narendra Modi promises to continue the NOFN initiative. It makes specific mention of the use of social media for more closely engaging the people. 22. E-governance brings empowerment, equity and efficiency. It has the power to transform peoples’ lives.
It was not the best time to disseminate research results in New Delhi, with the news media preoccupied with the accession of power by the new government. But, as Helani Galpaya said in her introductory comments at the media event, one has to get back to governance at some point. The first news report that resulted highlights the potential of using the ubiquitous mobile phones to improve communication between electricity discoms and their customers. The headline referred to the value of transferring lessons from mobile to electricity, for example by offering prepaid service to those who could not meet the current criteria for connections. The body is meeting state-level energy regulators from Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra to discuss the findings of the survey, which covered 1,279 people in India (Delhi and Patna).
Bangladesh has abundant international Internet bandwidth while Bhutan generates surplus electricity. Newly appointed Bhutan’s Ambassador to Dhaka, Pema Choden, has expressed interest in importing surplus bandwidth from Bangladesh. In that meeting, the State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam also showed interest in Bhutan’s plentiful electricity to meet the growing energy demand of Bangladesh. Both the neighbors are now poised to be the friend in mutual needs. Bangladesh currently consumes only 40Gbps of its 200Gbps capacity of the SEA-ME-WE 4 submarine cable.
I was a little surprised by the report in the Hindu Business Line that the Department of Telecom is planning to set up a testing and payment infrastructure for mobile apps, along with a subsidy/investment scheme funded from the Universal Service Fund. I was surprised about the DoT taking the lead when apps seem to be more within DEITY’s subject area. I was also surprised that funds from the USF were being used, when one would think that converting the universal service fund into an investment vehicle is an unusual choice. I was also surprised that many of the topics had been discussed in great detail by Rajat Kathuria and Sughanda Srivastva at the Expert Forum we conducted in Delhi on March 12th, 2014. DoT senior officials were present, but it seems that a month and half is little too short a time for policy recommendations to be transformed into actual policy in India.