A report in the Economist provides a very good post-mortem on what happened over the past few years. The title says it all – “Too many debts; too few calls”.
The last paragraph is interesting:
The lesson of the past few years is that the industry is notoriously bad at gauging demand for its services. The two most successful new telecommunications technologies of the past decade – Internet access on fixed networks, and text messaging on mobile networks – were both unexpected breakthroughs that emerged in spite of, rather than because of, the industry’s best efforts. So, once the smoke has cleared and the dust settled, expect the telecoms revival to come riding on the back of an unexpected technology that nobody in the industry has yet heard of.
My bet on the “unexpected technology” is 802.11 – wireless LANs using unlicenced spectrum. For emerging markets like India, they can help consumers and businesses leapfrog the last-mile connectivity problems cost-effectively.