BUMPS ON THE HIGHWAY
A TABLET’S VALUE TO A USER IS ENHANCED BY ITS 3G CONNECTIVITY? WHAT IS INDIA’S EXPERIENCE?
Rishabh Gupta, while on his way back to India from the US, was excited about the 3G services in India. After all, he had experienced the fast speed data network in New York City. To his horror, he found that 3G services in India were still not stable enough to be reliable. “I am on Airtel 3G services and they are pathetic,” he says. “Most of the time, the 3G data speeds are very slow and the network seems to disappear ever so often, making accessing anything on my tablet a pain. I wonder why I am paying so much to the operator for such a bad show.”
Given the fact that on 3G networks, data and voice are on different channels, why are such issues still cropping up here in India? As Pankaj Mohindroo, National President, ICA, points out, “3G services in India are disappointing. You might get satisfactorily good coverage in the home city but not on roaming. It is high time that the operators need to sort it with DOT and TRAI.”
But it is not simply a question of policy or implementation. Explains Romal Shetty, National Head, Telecommunications, of professional services firm KPMG: “3G services have not yet been set up properly. It is the high-traffic, high-population areas that the operators target. This is because operators are upgrading the network
and this takes time. Usually they test and upgrade the networks between 3 to 5 am, which is a very small window. It’s exactly like changing the wheels of a moving car.”
Because of these niggles, Indian are only getting a mediocre 3G experience. Network coverage is spotty, even within cities. Access switches between 3G and EDGE. At times, there is service collapse and there are a certain areas where one doesn’t get 3G network at all. “Operators are still in the process of rolling out 3G-enabled networks,” defends Rajan S Mathews, Director General, Cellular Operators Association of India. He says that the huge cost of deploying 3G networks, especially after the expensive spectrum auctions, is deterring operators from rolling out 3G networks to the entire existing customer base. However, he adds, “best efforts are being made despite limited conditions to provide high-speed data applications on 3G to subscribers to the maximum expanse and extent possible through intra-circle roaming arrangements among operators”.
Whatever optimism there may be among the industry people, Romal Shetty himself feels that it will probably take another couple of years, till 2014, for Indian to truly experience the magic of 3G.