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3G in India: Elango Thambiah, President, Operations and Mobility, Tata Teleservices Limited

January 27, 2012
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The Indian telecom industry has undergone a revolutionary change over the past few years to become one of the fastest-growing telecom markets across the globe.

Availability of 3G-enabled handsets, extensive network coverage and multiple services are some of the factors that have triggered this growth. Over the 10-12 months, the deployment of 3G services has seen the demand for data services burgeoning in the market, riding on the back of blazing fast speeds and innovative applications and services. In tandem, there has been a significant increase in demand for high-speed access on the fly, and research studies expect a CAGR growth of around 88 per cent in 3G subscribers till 2014.

3G technology is all about faster data access—shifting the focus from the ears to the eyes. It is a Next-Generation wireless network technology that provides high speed bandwidth to handheld mobile devices, as also laptops and personal computers. High data transfer rates allow 3G networks to offer multimedia services combining voice and data. 3G services seamlessly combine superior voice quality, high-speed mobile IP services, rich media and consequently diverse content.

There’s no doubt that 3G is the next big thing in the Indian telecom scenario. Just as broadband Internet access took over from conventional dial-up connections and radically changed the way one was able to use the Internet on conventional desktops and laptop computers, 3G promises to be the next big wave. Apart from increasing capacities and speed, 3G technology provides users with the convenience of multitasking, throwing up the vista of wireless knowledge workers with far greater flexibility, efficiency and speed of response to a multitude of demanding situations in real-time.

Consumers are now capable of getting an exciting range of mobile services such as mobile office services, virtual banking, home shopping, video-conferencing, rich multimedia with live audio & video streaming, e-mail, instant messaging with audio/video clips, easy access to social networking portals, online entertainment like live mobile TV and many more services that not only are location-based, but also include personalised services where specific content is pushed to users based on their individual needs and preferences.

The demand for these services has grown significantly since the time of the 3G launch in India last year in November. The fast-increasing 3G adoption has been precipitated by a multitude of factors, including rising aspirations of consumers and an increasing demand for advanced value-added services and high-end applications. The growth in aspirations has been driven by the larger specter of Indian economic growth.

The growth in the economy has been mirrored almost identically by the growth of telecom subscribers in India and the deployment of technology by telecom operators. With over 800 million subscribers, the Indian telecom landscape today boasts of many firsts.

Other than crucial infrastructure upgrade to ready their networks for 3G technology, Indian telecom operators have lined up engaging content and applications, smart services and phones, attractive data plans and strong education-cum-marketing exercise to bring customers onto the new platform. Today, there are over 1 billion 3G subscribers in over 150 countries worldwide. Reports peg the percentage of 3G subscribers globally at 18.4 per cent of the overall base, and estimate this to reach 42.7 per cent by 2015. Thus, the number of 3G subscribers worldwide is projected to grow at a CAGR of around 13 per cent during 2010-2013.

3G mobile services have brought about a change in mobile broadband adoption, increase in data revenues for mobile operators and higher ARPUs. In India, many stakeholders in the industry such as policymakers, telecom operators, content providers, application developers and end-users play an influential role in shaping 3G deployment at various phases.

Regulation, policy framework and market competition are important factors affecting the deployment of 3G technology in India. Economic and social issues like buying power, education levels and existing information and communication technology infrastructure in the country are also potential factors that affect the adoption of 3G services.

Going forward, as 3G becomes a more intrinsic part of consumers’ lives, the ubiquitous mobile handset is expected to become a life management tool for business, work and leisure. Consumer behavior will further drive the development of applications and services. The key to commercial success of 3G technologies lies in understanding consumers, their lifestyles and attitudes, and then delivering the winning applications—ones that impact customer lifestyles and, indeed, lives.

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