The first International Conference on Computing and Communications (ICCC) was
held at Kanpur from 4—6 February 2005. It focussed on how the emerging
technologies in IT and telecommunications can be applied for betterment of the
society. Its tagline was 'Forget what you know.' And it showcased enough
information (if not knowledge) to show how technology could leapfrog India into
a developed society.
Sessions featuring communications were invariaby better attended than those
on IT. Perhaps an indication of the next big technological revolution India is
FC Kohli (ex deputy chairman TCS) and Irwin Mark Jacobs, (chairman and CEO,
Qualcomm) were felicitated with lifetime achievement awards.
Pradeep Baijal, chairman, TRAI highlighted the role of private sector in
India's telecom development by citing that while the teledensity till 1998 was
two percent, last year the tele-density increased by two percent. Complementing
the role of TRAI, N Vittal said that TRAI was a case in point in how policy can
be used to create value for the society. AK Sinha, CMD, BSNL concurred with
Baijal that private players had contributed to the growth in telecom, and added
that despite the BSNL no longer enjoying any special 'dispensation' with the
government, it had been able to gather 20 percent of the mobile market within
two years of entering the market and it aimed to corner 50 percent of the growth
in the next two years.
The broad theme held by most speakers was that though telecom services in
urban areas was world class, with a tele-density of 1.7 the rural areas were
lagging behind. And lack of any other form of infrastructure (e.g. rails or
road) in these areas added to the problem.
Seth, member, TRAI said that there was no incentive for private playes to go
rural, and the burden of rural connectivity so far had been on BSNL. The USO was
formed to pump in investment here but it could disburse only Rs 500 crore of the
Rs 5,000 crore at its disposal. He called for a re-look at the goal of providing
universal access and universal service. So far, he said, the goal was only to
provice access to a traditional fixed phone lines. But the rural market is
unable to attract investment for this despite its huge size. What is needed, he
said, is a business case approach to rural telephony. And a business case was
only possible if relevant value-added services (such as tele-medecine and
agricultural consulting) were offered in the rural areas. But these services are
Therefore the universal access would have to be redefined to providing access
to broadband. And the content on this connectivity would have to be in local
FC Kohli noted that India and China in the 90s had almost identical rates of
PC penetration and tele-density. He said China is much ahead of India in these
fields because China could create local language content.
SC Gupta, member electrical, Railway Board said that since railway station
are already connected by optical fiber, they could house WiMax base station
connected to the fiber in the backhaul. Of course, this network would not
provide 100 percent coverage in India, said Gupta. But all available
technologies needed to be used to promote telecom in the country. In this
regard, he praised TRAI's attempts at setting up niche operators.
A presentation by Chaudhary and Holur of Samsung India Software Operations
highlighted how ultra wide band technology (UWB) could power the wireless
personal area networks (WPAN) of the future. UWB was till now used only in
millitary applications like radar, and even after it being freeing up, such
wireless networks cannot extend beyond 10 meters.
The conference also dwelt on the security needs of the armed forces
especially in the arena of communications technology.
While the conference featured papers mainly by industry bigshots and
academics, there was also a presentation of a model for toll tax collection,
developed by the students at IIIT Bangalore. A pilot based on this model, for
SMS-based toll tax collection, is already on in Karnataka.
By the time the conference ended, topics ranging from the most technical to
the most socio-economically relevent had been highlighted. However, the
valedictory speech highlighted the socially relevant discussions at the
conference. Among other things, the conference closed with a recommendation that
at least all the universities in Indian should be connected to the broadband
infrastructure. There was immense knowledge in the many centers of excellece and
the communications infrestructure was a must for its dissemination to all
students. In this aspect, the role of Edusat was also highlighted as an enabler
in this pursuit. The conference also noted that though connectivity is
necessary, it can achieve little due to the lack of basic infrastructure
especially in the villages. The conference ended with the academics and the
industry professionals deciding that they "must tell the government how to
penetrate the rural areas," and at the same time lamented that those who
needed technology the most were not able to attend this conference.
Some of the prominent speakers at the three-day event were FC Kohli, ex
deputy chairman, TCS; N Vittal, former secretary DoT; Pradeep Baijal, chairman
TRAI; AK Sinha, CMD BSNL; Dr DPS Seth, member TRAI; and Sam Pitroda, chairman
World WorldTel. The event was jointly organised by IIT Kanpur and IETE Kanpur
and will now be held every two years, the next one being proposed for 2007.