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The next big wave

With 10 million new connections being added every month, mobile telephony has been the success story of recent times. And in 2009, it’ll only get better. For it is sometime in January this year that 3G will come in, and with it — so the experts say — a new chapter in the communications revolution, reports Manoj Gairola.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2008 22:45 IST
Manoj Gairola

With 10 million new connections being added every month, mobile telephony has been the success story of recent times. And in 2009, it’ll only get better. For it is sometime in January this year that 3G will come in, and with it — so the experts say — a new chapter in the communications revolution.

So what is 3G, and why is it revolutionary? At present, mobile telephony is based on GSM and CDMA technologies, which allow only voice and text (SMS). With download speeds of 144 kbps (kilo bytes/second) at the most, they do not support high speed video applications and data services for which you’d need a minimum speed of 384 kbps. 3G, short for third generation mobile telephony, allows a minimum speed of 2Mbps (mega bytes/second), enabling access to a host of multimedia services.

So two people talking on the mobile phone can see each other on the screen, or a woman sitting in office can watch what her child is up to at home.

A beginning was made on December 10, 2008, when the government-owned Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL) launched 3G services in Delhi. Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) will follow soon. “We will launch by January-end in many cities simultaneously,” says Kuldeep Goyal, chairman and managing director of BSNL. Besides these, there will also be three private players by the end of the year as the government is set to auction 3G spectrum later this month.

3G has many interesting possibilities. For instance, a 3G phone connected to a lap top could make it a virtual office. Then video calling and conferencing, which will be very useful to businesses where personal interaction is important.

Among the more popular services will be mobile TV, allowing housewives to catch up on their favourite serials on their handsets. MTNL, for instance, will have more than 100 TV channels, although “initially only four channels will be offered”, says R.S.P. Sinha, MTNL’s CMD. Youngsters will love high-speed Internet, which will enable them to watch high-quality YouTube videos. Besides, there’ll also be video on demand and games that involve high-speed data access.

Working mothers, jealous lovers and the police will find use for video surveillance services possible on 3G — they can view on mobiles footage from cameras installed in various locations.

Prices of 3G handsets have dropped to around Rs 12,000, making them more accessible. On the flip side, tariffs of services are yet to be decided. For the first month, “high-end customers will get 3G services free”, promises Sinha, after which MTNL see how the networks mature and then decide the tariff.