Investment is not like charity. One does not just give investment. If Tata is to invest in Bangladesh’s 2.4 percent market share Teletalk, it will have to have answers to the following questions: 1. Will it get a controlling interest in the company?
Indian government has endured stormy opposition when Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL), its international telecoms arm, was privatized in early 2000. Since then, through merger and acquisition along with new build-outs, the Indian carriers – Tata, Reliance and Bharti – dominate the global connectivity business. Moreover, each submarine cable linking Asia with the Middle East, Africa and Europe hops in India due to its location. Therefore, like Japan in transpacific and the United Kingdom in transatlantic routes, India could emerge as a formidable transoceanic telecoms connectivity hub in the region. That has not happened, primarily, due to the Indian carriers’ mindless obsession for dominance.
India’s regulator has launched a public consultation on – “Delivering Broadband Quickly: What do we need to do?” TRAI has identified many bottlenecks across the broadband supply chain in India. It is, however, mute on the duopoly of Tata and Bharti over the submarine cable landing stations. TRAI underscores the rationalization of right-of-way. It should have revealed that some states charge as high as INR 1.
Asia’s median wholesale price of Internet bandwidth is now more than four-times expensive than Europe’s. In LIRNEasia I have been working with ESCAP to formulate a Eurasian terrestrial cable initiative. The objective is making Asia’s submarine cables highly resilient by adding a meshed transcontinental overland optical fiber network. It will make Asia’s wholesale IP-transit bandwidth cost either at par or lesser than Europe’s. Broadband in Asia, regardless fixed or mobile, will grow like mobile voice.
LIRNEasia and its people have been intimately involved in the spurts and starts of the policy discussion on Bangladesh’s international connectivity. We were early in pointing to the need for an additional cable, pointing to the multiple vulnerabilities created by the single undersea cable controlled by the government-owned BTCL and the non-ring architecture of the dry link from Dhaka to Cox’s Bazar. Now, with 3-4 of the terrestrial cables coming online, we have a natural experiment running in what addressing redundancy means. Renesys has shown the results for those with backup and those without. Neat.
Call it “The Phantom of the Operators” or whatever. It is fraud. Your long distance carrier, possibly, uses False Answer Supervision (FAS) and charges for the calls you could not make. Carriers can earn minimum 21 per cent extra profit through such fraudulent act. And organized criminals are there to help.
I telepresenced using the Tata marketed CISCO system in New Delhi few months ago and was converted. Three locations and after a few minutes, you just assume that you’re talking to people in the room. The clarity of the pictures and audio was astounding. Now with the costs and hassle of air travel increasing, this is clearly the way to do business. But you need a minimum 5 MBps link for a two-way; we used 15MBps for the three-location conference.
Qualcomm has come under some pressure recently when Reliance, with one of the fastest growing CDMA-based networks in the world based on Qualcomm’s patented technology, announced that it would provide mobile service using GSM technology and criticised Qualcomm’s high royalty and licensing fees. The inference was that Qualcomm’s fees were resulting in higher costs for handsets which is preventing Reliance from offering affordable service to low-income subscribers. Qualcomm claims that CDMA handset prices in India were already some of the lowest in the world and that royalty was only about $2 per handset. It further argues that Reliance’s move into GSM has to do with flawed spectrum policy of the Indian Telecom Ministry (DoT) that provides more than twice the spectrum to GSM operators compared to CDMA operators like Reliance. This is because according to Qualcomm, GSM technology allows only a finite number of subscribers in a cell whereas the CDMA technology on the other hand poses no such restrictions.