Sam's to-do List

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

Thanks to Sam Pitroda, the Prime Minister's point man for the Indian telecom,

the 3G tangle finally seems to be getting sorted out. Though I would reserve my

final applaud on his success till the day I see private operators launching

their services, he has clearly been able to establish himself as the 'big boss'

of Indian telecom. What our telecom minister was not able to do for years,

mainly because of the lack of support from senior cabinet colleagues, including

the defence minister, Sam Pitroda has done in a few weeks.


The recently appointed advisor on innovation, infrastructure and information

to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sam Pitroda can really play a big role in

turning around the Indian telecom, which will actually be a backbone for

innovation and information. While the 3G mess gets cleaned up, there are quite a

few things that he can try to influence and change.

Broadband is definitely on his plate. The current penetration is abysmally

low, and if one goes back to the fact that Pitroda also needs to push innovation

and information, there is no way it can be achieved without high quality

Internet. All the operators are so worked up about mobile subscriber numbers

that they have forgotten about the Internet. Increasing mobile phone and

Internet penetration cannot be serial projects, to be taken up one after the

other. We cannot wait to first reach 80% teledensity before we start work on the

Internet. If the operators have other priorities, then the government has to

step in. I don't know if Pitroda has a plan already, but there are quite a few

bright ideas floating around.


Actually, when I am talking about ideas I must talk about small, niche, and

specialized players too, which are known to be the best breeding ground for

ideas and innovation. For instance the small, regional and local Internet

Service Providers have been completely eradicated from the Indian telecom scene

thanks to highly unfriendly policies, and zero co-operation and support from

large players. Pitroda must do something to revive the small players, and I am

sure Internet and broadband numbers will go up. It is not a good idea to have

giant entities controlling everything — the first victims will be consumers for

sure, but innovation and entrepreneurship will also suffer in the long run.

Quality of service seems to be on nobody's agenda as of now. Although Trai

wants to take it up, but it already has too many things to handle. My humble

submission to Pitroda will be to see if a body can be created either separately

or within Trai that will focus on QoS. We just celebrated achieving the 500 mn

subscriber, and a record added 16.67 mn subscribers in October. But there is

nobody who is talking about the grievances of millions of subscribers. There is

nobody to take care of their interests. A healthy telecom nation is not just

about very high telecom penetration, but also very high satisfaction level.

Simlarly, the USO plan for taking telecom to remote and poor places has not

taken off.

There are some reports that telecom minister A Raja is not very happy with

Piroda's involvement in some of the key policy and implementation decisions, but

I think this is an opportunity where Raja must use Pitroda's weight to get

cracking on some of the other critical issues pending before the government.

Ibrahim Ahamad