India as Cellular’s First World

Dana Blankenhorn writes that in the case of cellular, the US is the third world.

The First World for cellular exists in places like India. A broadband cellular provider in that country has launched live TV feeds, using EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution), a 3G enhancement to the old GSM standards.

Nokia and Ericsson are the partners of this cellular operator, which is called Idea Cellular. I just got finished documenting an Ericsson phone, and my own Nokia. Both party like it’s 1999.

Two things are driving this. First, because there are no wired incumbents to protect (remember that U.S. cellular leaders Cingular and Verizon are both tied to Baby Bells) this is new service, not redundant service, for many people. Second, since there is one, non-proprietary standard, you get enormous competition among re-sellers who ride on the cellular networks…they can buy magazine or newspaper ads efficiently. U.S. carriers are still locked into proprietary standards, and have absolute control over much tinier markets that result.

The bottom line is that mobile connectivity is up 160% in India, year over year, against growth of just three percent in the wireline business. Despite the fact that India started with a single publicly-owned telco while the U.S. supposedly had competing private operators, their digital divide is being bridged, with 86% of villages now getting some form of phone service.

Standards work. Open networks work. Competition works. This is India’s experience.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has proprietary networks, no real standards, and no real competition. Thus it continues to lag behind.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.