Gadgets and Gizmos (India) - - COVER STORY - BY NIDHI SIN­GAL

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.

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