In the capital's suburban Noida, more than 350 teachers and academicians are busy at Extramarks, a leading digital learning company, making educational content for online delivery to school children.
They are bracing for the next wave of mobile telecoms.
"We expect a boom
in online interactive education when telecom firms launch 4G services in major cities by the end of this year," said Atul Kulshrestha, chairman, Extramarks Education.
"With high speed wireless broadband, we will be able to bring virtual classrooms to homes in metros, small cities and villages."
India is on the cusp of data revolution. The 4G services launch will enable you to send and receive data-heavy files of movies, music, and live pictures of medical procedures in a few minutes.
"Today, the mobile data market is at the same level the mobile voice market was in 2003," said K Srinivas, president, consumer business of Bharti Airtel.
And just as the success of mobile (voice) telephony completely changed the way Indians communicated with each other, mobile 4G data services can, potentially, redefine how we watch movies, take tuitions and consult doctors, among other things.
Three main factors largely triggered the boom. First, telecom operators began rolling out networks across the country covering even small towns and villages.
Then, stiff competition and growth in the market brought tariffs down. And gradually, handset prices fell from Rs. 15,000-plus levels to Rs. 1,000- Rs. 2,000.
These ingredients have set the stage for explosive growth of data services.
Broadband communications is at a nascent stage in India, with only 2% of the estimated mobile subscribers numbering 900 million having high-speed data access of 256kbps. But this is set to change soon.
"Many consumers will discover Internet for the first time on their phones," said Vivek Mathur, chief commercial officer, Vodafone India. "We expect to see significant uplift in 3G data over the next few years."
Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) is expected to launch its 4G services in more than 100 cities by the end of the year.
Bharti Airtel has already launched 4G in three cities - Kolkata, Bengaluru and Pune.
All major operators including Vodafone and Idea have launched 3G services.
This means that the 3G services that offer download speeds of up to 21 Mbps are now available in major cities and towns through the country.
The services are affordable and tariffs range from Rs.10 to Rs.1,000 per month, depending on data usage.
And the last piece in the 4G jigsaw is falling into place. Prices of smart phones and tablets are coming down.
Branded smartphones are available for as little as Rs.5,000 and tablet prices start at Rs.5,000.
"We are talking to manufacturers to make smartphones available at Rs.3,000," said Bharti Airtel's Srinivas.
RIL is said to be in discussions with leading device companies to offer bundled services, where the monthly tariff will include user charges for data services as well as an installment on the price of the smartphone or tablet provided by the company, said a source familiar with the development.
Samsung, Nokia, BlackBerry, Apple, and LG are among the leading manufacturers of LTE (Long-Term Evolution) phones. LTE is the dominant technology for 4G services.
"In Western countries, where 3G was launched about eight years ago, smartphones account for 80% of the total phones," said an executive at the Anil Ambani-controlled Reliance Communications (RCOM).
"Currently, only seven per cent of the total mobile subscribers in India use smartphones. This is set to grow by 50% taking smart phone penetration to 11% by the end of this year," said Pankaj Mohindroo, national president, Indian Cellular Association (ICA).
"If the right content is in place, the number of smartphone users will jump."
And here, indigenous content is very important. Barring entertainment, especially of Bollywood and regional language movies, there is little content made for India, industry officials say.
Bharti Airtel has identified mobile education, mobile health and mobile commerce and money transfer as priority 4G services.
"We have launched mobile learning courses where one can learn English or even prepare for IIT entrance exams," said Srinivas.
"We are also working with Religare Wellness Ltd, a leading wellness and pharmacy retailer, on mobile health."
RIL is tying up with various content developers. "The company is focusing on education, entertainment, health and other services," said the source.
Last year, RIL bought a significant equity stake in Network 18 group, a leading company in entertainment and TV news.
"Our broad strategy will be to help customers increase their usage through affordable 3G solutions. We will offer services that are helpful to them and also provide entertainment," said Vodafone's Mathur.
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