Global telecom services continuum includes basic communications, universal and affordable mobile broadband, and user managed multimedia capabilities. This is part of the fixed-mobile-convergence with unified voice, data, and video applications on a single mobile handset.
In India, we are still in the first stage of this service continuum. The wireless voice network has grown phenomenally over the last decade. However, broadband mobile telecom, a key enabler for India’s ceaseless march towards becoming a global leader, requires critical attention. This article addresses the major challenges and opportunities relating to universal broadband access, cost effective technology path, expedient spectrum allocation, and technology leadership.
Challenges and Opportunities
It is estimated that in terms of contribution to the overall national economic growth, the increase in broadband access provides an order of magnitude increase compared to the corresponding voice tele-density increase. For a developing country like India, providing mobile broadband services is not just an option but an imperative. Current relentless focus on providing basic voice services needs to be balanced with accelerated availability of high bandwidth wireless access capabilities.
We need to focus on value added services and applications consistent with India’s needs, especially tailored to the vast rural population. Affordable broadband access is particularly important in the areas of distance education, quality health services, market access, and productivity improvements. It will help close the digital divide between the metros, tier-2 cities, and rural areas and will support inclusive growth.
For broadband, affordability is a major issue for a significant section of India’s population, both in rural and urban areas. For reaching out to the majority of the population, the government needs to look at multi-tiered broadband telecom as a critical infrastructure investment. It requires an active financial intervention by the government. Spectrum allocation needs to be looked at as a major and critical infrastructure investment instead of a short term money making proposition by the government.