4G was first launched in India by Mukesh Ambani, the owner of Reliance who hold the pan-India Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) license in 2015. Reliance invested a total worth of 70000 crore to execute this project, with a long term plan to install 3000 towers in the first phase. This was subsequently followed by companies like Bharti Airtel, Aircel, Tikona among many others, who gradually got their BWA licenses. But as for now, no telecom company has given a deadline for their completion of their projects. With the introduction of 4G in the Indian market, the telecommunication sector has touched a new level in the bar of its growth and evolution. So much so, that, according to the Strategy Analytics Annual Survey Report, India will replace Japan as the world’s third largest 4G market by 2016. The latest boom brought by 4G has already swept the major cosmopolitans with its fervor. The number of smartphones in India has crossed 100million mark in the international market in 2015, and it is being stated that we will surpass the United States to become the second largest smart phone market by 2017. People from all walks of life, sans economic status and social boundaries have welcomes the change with open arms.
But behind all these statistical data and numerical conclusions lies a dark bitter truth that is most carefully wrapped under the colorful layers of technological advancement. Few days back I read an open letter written by a man from New Delhi, to the head of one of the telecom giant, Bharti Airtel regarding its terrible service across the country. He beautifully stated how while the telecom company never failed to advertise its offers before one can actually make a phone call, the same are absolutely irrelevant in the time of distress. He went on to mention that the luscious offers introduced by the particular telecom company are a mere leisure than necessity.
So, a question arises that when the world’s second largest populous country is on a roll for a high-end advancement in the field of telecommunication, why a person from the national capital, or for that fact, people from most metro cities have to face tremendous inconvenience while accessing the so-called benefits? When we ponder deep into this, it is realized that a multiple factors are responsible for this distress.
Since the last two years, the revenue generated by the telecom companies through voice calls and paid messaging services has either remained stagnant or declined significantly. The shift from cheaper call rates to online data consumption has resulted in considerably slower growth of the companies. Customers now want high speed internet data at lower prices. Companies are also finding new ways of revenue generation, which in no way is able to fill the income gap. The lack of enough spectrums or broken spectrums in one of the chief reasons behind this slow pace of mobile power technology India. (In a layman’s language, spectrums are the radio waves that are used to carry phone signals along with wireless communications, television and radio.) As it is a scarce resource across the globe, the government hold the responsibility of distributing it. The Indian government allows comparatively very little spectrum, which additionally is divided among a dozen telecom users. Among them, few are exclusively blocked for defence purpose. In such a narrow scenario, data connectivity automatically slows down, hence not making much of a difference between 3g or 4G. The considerably backward technology and feeble government policies and regulations make the connections even slow, making it almost undesirable for the customers to use.
Secondly, the huge disparity between rural-urban subscribers decides a lot about the mishap around the India. While the urban population has access to multiple connections, the rural population can barely manage to get a phone subscription. This much evident rural urban disparity proves that being subscribed not necessarily mean being connected. This debate also extends to the access and use of internet. A huge chunk of the information available in the internet is in English, a language still foreign to a lakh of rural Indian population. And thus, the use of internet is limited to just the fundamentals of A, B and C i.e Astrology, Bollywood and Cricket. With such a limited use of the services provided by the telecom companies, the speed of connection barely matters. The statistical data printed by the surveys undertaken are mostly confined to the urban population, and hence the numbers can be deceptive to some extent.
The third big challenge is the pricing of the mobile handsets, or smartphones inbuilt to support these digital advancements. With tremendous advancements in the field of mobile handsets made, it can be seen that the phones have several inbuilt high tech facilities, which are many a times, incomprehensible to the rural population. For the telecom companies in India to have a successful market for 4G data connectivity and target a bigger market, they have to penetrate the Tier I and Tier II cities. With high population densities, these cities are the best markets for execution of the facilities provided by the telecom companies. But with relatively less income of a considerable chunk of this population, added with meager knowledge about smartphones, the internet uses remain confined just to a limited arena. Hence, it becomes clear that if the telecom companies want to mark a hit with their 4G service, they should first take the pain of making its customers understand the use of smartphones.
Overall, it can be understood that despite the fact that the Indian telecommunication sector has come a long way from the sad matter of states from the pre-liberation days, it has still to abate a line of strong challenges ahead. With advancements in the smartphone technology and gradual decrease in the price of the phones, we can hope to perform better and make efficient use of the available spectrum. It can be just hoped that with few significant necessary changes, the 4G market will manage bring a boom to the Indian telecommunication market.