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The 3G Bottleneck

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VoicenData Bureau
New Update

While the Indian Government is playing hide and seek with 3G, smart nations

are moving rapidly on a crucial matter like national telecom infrastructure. If

my memory does not fail me, I remember that as soon as the current telecom

minister had taken charge, he had said that India does not need 3G, and that 2G

is good enough. Over the years he may have inaugurated 3G conferences and

attended 3G exhibitions and finally agreed to let 3G come in, but at the fag end

of the present government's term there is no news about 3G. Actually there is no

clarity on 3G.

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I have never pushed for 3G, and would prefer that India find its own telecom

path, but what is very unfortunate is this sense of uncertainty that prevails

today. This complicated scenario hurts everybody. There are some operators who

want 3G but cannot start, and there are others who do not want to go in for 3G

but come under unnecessary pressure because of rumors that '3G is coming next

month'. And then there are those who jump in with absolutely different reasons

and create problems for the existing operators.

Had I been the minister, I would have prepared a time bound telecom policy,

stating that for the next five years forget about 3G, and focus on tele density

and quality of services. Everybody, right from consumers to corporate users;

from operators to valued added service players; and even policy makers down the

line would have had one target. And all planning would have been around that.

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Just look at what China is doing. They are clear that 3G is the future,

therefore despite the economic slowdown, investments in building and enhancing

telecom networks in China, operator spending is likely to go up. The leading

telecom operators in China will be the world's largest capex spenders in 2009,

say experts from Pyramid Research, thereby giving a boost to the economy too.

The three operators-China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom-are planning

to not only extend their 2G networks to rural areas but also budgeting billions

of dollars for their new 3G networks. And it's not just about mobile. For fixed

lines which will have a big role in the growth and adoption of broadband, the

government is pushing operators to improve fiber access to households. Nobody is

sitting and dithering in uncertainty.

Obviously, the next few years will see China having the state of the art

telecom networks all over the country. Just imagine the kind of advantage it

will give to the country as a whole. It will be something similar to what we saw

just a few years back in China, when excellent roads, power supply, and telecom

in a few regions made the whole world rush there. India, the country of sages

and wise men is not able to work out a a five year national policy for an area

as crucial as telecom. Instead of a boon, 3G is becoming a bane.

<ibrahima@cybermedia.co.in>

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