3G in India - The speed monster

Speed is a relative term. Much like desire the need for speed is insatiable, writes Puneet Mehrotra.

india Updated: Jan 25, 2007 08:51 IST

The need for speed

"I feel the need. The need for speed!"
Tom Cruise in Top Gun

Speed is a relative term. Much like desire the need for speed is insatiable. Take it whichever way you want I am an eternal optimist and believe there are no speed limits on the road to excellence. The glass is half full and yet being filled. In our electronic civilization being built byte by byte, what was a highway is now a street.

From the initial govt. owned VSNL dialup to the current GPRS/Edge, DSL it's been an interesting journey. But that was about the past. The future is bright and sunny and thanks to the initiatives of the Telecom Ministry and organizations like Qualcomm we are soon about to get an expressway that will fulfill our present and future need for speed.

Good Things Come in BIG packages

Whoever says good things come in small packages is wrong. In our electronic civilization good things come only in big packages. Don't believe me. Try downloading your favorite music. These days I am hooked to Tibetan and other Buddhist traditional folk. The smallest file of decent quality is 50 mb. Time to download minimum 15 minutes on a 256 kbps "broadband" connection. As our generation gets more and more digital almost everything is digital with huge multimedia inputs. Good things in this generation come in big sizes and the size is getting bigger and bigger.

The Myth of Wireless Broadband in India

You really have to a very broad imagination to believe that there is wireless broadband in India. I am not an anti GPRS, Edge nor have anything to do with the GSM versus CDMA debate, nor have taken any sides in the Qualcomm versus adversaries of Qualcomm battle. I am just a small bandwidth consumer and the fact is in India we do not have wireless broadband. Connectivity yes but far from broadband.

The 3G World

As India steps on the 3G world it means a whole lot of opportunities for us. Bandwidth over a period of time could increase by as much as 10 times. Internet accessibility, telephony, entertainment, rural development, e-governance will get a huge fillip. A bit about 3G first.

3G stands for third-generation wireless technology and networks. 3G is based on an International Telecommunication Union (ITU) initiative for a single global wireless standard called International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000). This concept of a single standard evolved into a family of five 3G wireless standards. Of those five, the most widely accepted are CDMA2000, WCDMA (UMTS) and TD-SCDMA.

World over there are around 425 million reported 3G CDMA subscribers.

3G - The Speed Monster

According to the ITU and IMT-2000, a wireless standard must meet minimum bit-rate requirements to be considered 3G:

"2 Mbps in fixed or in-building environments
"384 Kbps in pedestrian or urban environments
"144 Kbps in wide area mobile environments
"Variable data rates in large geographic area systems (satellite)

In addition to providing faster bit rates and greater capacity over previous-generation technologies, 3G standards excel by effectively:

"Delivering mobile data
"Offering greater network capacity
"Operating with existing second-generation technologies
"Enabling rich data applications such as VoIP, video telephony, mobile multimedia, interactive gaming and more.

Better Highways Better Economy

It's a simple equation better infrastructure better economy. The same equation in our knowledge economy translates to better speed means a better economy.

Broadband wireless connectivity for the common man mean would mean high-bandwidth activities like stock trading, interactive maps to navigate roads, live market prices for farmers and complex videogames that could be played in groups spread across the world.

3G in the Indian Rural Market

Currently the consumption of value added services is greater in the urban markets, but with time rural and semi-urban markets will potentially offer tremendous growth for the value added industry.

Noteworthy mentioning is that the mobile phone will probably do what the computer couldn't do to the rural market. Electricity is a scarce commodity in India. The capital of India is starved of electricity and the rural belt anyway hardly gets it. A mobile phone doesn't require continuous electricity and is capable of providing services that can prove to be handy.

Localized content such as video clips, mobile comics and mobile magazines in regional languages, would provide entertainment to various rural pockets. E-learning and e-governance initiatives would meet a major need of the rural users and would have a great appeal to rural masses. Such content would help mobile services providers to open up largely untapped rural markets.

The Last Word

What's a victory without obstacles? In India policy implementation goes through interesting stages. Sometimes babus act as accelerators, sometimes as speed breakers. This time the speed breaker is from the defense. According to reports they are yet to vacate spectrum for 3G services. Nevertheless it's only a matter of time before 3G comes into force. Looking forward to cruise on the speed devil.

Puneet Mehrotra is a web strategist atwww.cyberzest.comand editswww.thebusinessedition.comyou can email him onpuneet@cyberzest.com

First Published: Jan 25, 2007 08:47 IST