discussion on 3G

On 23 December 2011, Arun Mehta raised a discussion on the subject "3G descending into chaos?" by posting a news "3G roaming illegal: DoT" published in The Hindu, 22 December 2011. Below is this interesting discussion.


On Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 9:45 AM Arun Mehta wrote:

The Department of Telecom (DOT) has always made telecom policy to suit BSNL MTNL and other members of the government telecom family, not that this move is going to do much to help BSNL get more 3G customers. Private operators have in the past been able to overrule them by appealing to the Prime Minister, as they did with basic services in the late '90s -- indeed, even the opening up of WiFi spectrum and low license fees for ISPs came out of a task force that the PM set up, bypassing the DOT.

Private operators have already appealed to the PM, but in this climate of sending people to jail for questionable telecom policy, it is unlikely that the PM will support them. The matter will then land up before the courts.

This puts a nail in the 3G coffin, not that its health was that great anyway. How many on india-gii have a 3G connection? At least among the student community, it hasn't caught on. Most people make do with slow GPRS when they aren't in range of a WiFi Internet connection.

News story: 3G roaming illegal: DoT
22, December 2011, http://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/article2738604.ece

In a move that would hurt mobile operators providing 3G services, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked these operators to terminate their roaming agreements, which were in violation of licence norms.

Backed by similar observations made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the Law Ministry, Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal has asked Telecom Secretary R. Chandrasekhar to send notices to all 3G operators, who have entered into such ‘illegal' roaming agreements. The DoT is also likely to impose penalty on these operators for violating 3G licence norms.

In the 3G spectrum auction held earlier this year, where the government fetched over Rs.67,700 crore, no private operator managed to bag pan-India licence, thus barring them from offering nationwide services. Reliance Communications, Bharti Airtel and Aircel bagged the highest number 13 circles in the 3G auction.

Subsequently, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular entered into a roaming agreement to use each others' networks for providing pan-India 3G coverage. Similar agreements were also entered into by Tata Teleservices and Aircel, which they later terminated. After receiving complaints, the DoT looked into the matter and also took legal opinion. Now, the DoT will issue notices to these firm to terminate their contracts with immediate effect or face action.

On the other hand, the three operators — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular — have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding refund of spectrum auction payments if such 3G roaming is disallowed.

“In the event that 3G ICR [intra-circle roaming] is now deemed impermissible, then, it would be a clear breach of our contract and the pre-auction confirmation given by the government. In that
eventuality, we request that our spectrum auction payments be refunded to us with interest along with compensation for all the capital investments made by us,” Bharti Enterprises Chairman and Group CEO Sunil Mittal, Aditya Birla Group (Idea Cellular) Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and London-based Vodafone Group Plc Group Chief Executive Vittorio Colao said in a letter written to Dr. Singh a few weeks ago.

Suresh Ramasubramanian on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 9:49 wrote:

Arun Mehta [23/12/11 09:45 +0530]:
This puts a nail in the 3G coffin, not that its health was that great anyway. How many on india-gii have a 3G connection? At least among the student community, it hasn't caught on. Most people make do with slow GPRS when they aren't in range of a WiFi Internet connection.

I have 3g and I need 3g dammit .. its been a lifesaver when I'm stuck somewhere with just a phone or ipad and have urgent work to do, but cant get a stable or fast enough connection to do it.

Sharath Jeppu on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 9:58 AM wrote:

"I use a 3G connection as well."

Akshay Mishra wrote on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 10:03 AM:

In all of the un-connected (wired access) India -- especially the Uttarakhand / Himachal / North East I feel the locals have benefited from Internet with direct access to foreign clients. They check mails on their phones with GPRS. While the charges are still criminal, 3G speeds will help them with enhanced quality. City life may not need 3G/LTE so much as these inaccessible regions.

In my recent trips I have seen each of our trek guide, usually a young graduate lad, carries a phone. While many of the leads are from the established large companies in Delhi/Haridwar etc, they are getting to use Internet to their advantage. However, the power situation and cost does not allow them to own a PC and they need Internet "only" for their website and emails.

So, while there would be many like Suresh, there are many others who would get introduced to Internet because of better QoS. GPRS while sufficient would not be scalable with the growing requirement.

I use 3G on my phone. It helps but for now, could have done with GPRS as well. And I use MTNL. :-)

Sajan Venniyoor on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 11:30 AM wrote:

On 23 December 2011 09:45, Arun Mehta <arun.mehta@gmail.com> wrote:
How many on india-gii have a 3G connection?

Not sure if india-gii members with a 3G connection are any indication of the health of 3G.

TRAI's telecom subscription data doesn't give any numbers for 3G users, though it looks like we have over 900 million wireless (mobile?) subscribers now, or rather, 881.4 million by 31 Oct. And barely 13 million broadband subscribers, which is a bummer.

There are some reports on the growth of the 3G market, but I couldn't dig out actual figures from any of them. They generally sign off with the brilliantly intuitive statement that "3G-market growth will primarily depend on the deployment of 3G services by the telecom operators." No kidding!

Suresh Ramasubramanian on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 11:40 AM wrote:

Just watching youtube on a 3g connection is more than enough to kick bandwidth usage far more than expected. Also on the air installation and upgrade of apps and software in smartphones.

Carriers dont really need to deploy video calling etc applications, they'll have far more bandwidth utilization than they dreamed of.

shibupaul on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 11:45 AM wrote:

"I use 3G"
Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone

Banibrata Dutta on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 11:52 AM responded:

On 23 December 2011 09:45, Arun Mehta <arun.mehta@gmail.com> wrote:
How many on india-gii have a 3G connection?
Not sure if india-gii members with a 3G connection are any indication of the health of 3G.

Indeed. BTW, I am almost certain that "3G" being discussed here is more specifically GSM-3G provided using UMTS technology. 3G as in a generation of technology which has an associated peak/typical throughput (or more broadly speaking bandwidth possible) is concerned, I think the CDMA camp using EV-DO on the same CDMA-2G spectrum, are faring better, and playing a very key factor in keeping the UMTS-3G provider jittery and on their toes. They obviously had a significant headstart, but more so due to no (or very low) "spectrum cost spread burden", when compared to the UMTS camp, they seem to be extremely bullish.

TRAI's telecom subscription data doesn't give any numbers for 3G users, though it looks like we have over 900 million wireless (mobile?) subscribers > now, or rather, 881.4 million by 31 Oct. And barely 13 million broadband subscribers, which is a bummer.

It is dismal, but I am not sure it is extremely surprising. We have known for a while now that smartly engineered solutions can make real creative usage of a rather humble data-transport technology called SMS. In the end when it is a question of information transfer, I think we've been at the forefront of inventing (or at least adopting & using) technology that is free or dirt-cheap (missed call, for instance). While price remains the single biggest hurdle (IMHO) to wider adoption, there are other factors as well. For a very large proportion of handsets out there, how many are 3G enabled ? For those that are, how many of them are "well identified" and "well known" for automated device-configuration to work seamlessly ? And then, the quality of customer care (how fast, easily, effectively they are able to address/solve a subscribers' issues), are all playing some part.

But, somehow, "cost" (as a factor) is somehow linked to each of these other factors.

Rajesh Kankaria on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 12:09 PM wrote in response:

Quite true Sajan. I would have loved to see the 3G numbers as well.

A personal guesstimate does gives a feel Telco's via 3G aren't doing great. IMO the Telco's who spent hefty sum bidding for 3G licenses are now feeling the pinch realizing there isn't adequate ROI on it (till now).
<Conspiracy Theory>

The type of muscle-power the telco's have, I won't be surprised if the telco's themselves are building the ground to get the licence fee refunded or so. The case at some point of time could lead to a scenario where-in they will pose (threat) to exit 3G and ask for a refund. Am not aware such a clause exists or not in the licence, but in case there exists one, this could be a good business move.

Further the entry of Senior Ambani via Infotel's 22 circle bid on BWA-spectrum seems another (possible) threat - the 3G bidder's will have to encounter.

</Conspiracy Theory>

Kingsly John on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 12:24 PM wrote:

+++ Rajesh Kankaria [2011-12-23 12:09:46]:
Further the entry of Senior Ambani via Infotel's 22 circle bid on BWA-spectrum seems another (possible) threat - the 3G bidder's will have to encounter.

It is a definite threat, and he only needs to pick up any one of the dozen 2G operators and he'll be back in the mobile business operating the most capable mobile network in the country. And a monopoly 4G operator.
Considering Anil Ambani's cash woes, he could even buy back RCom.

Vickram Crishna on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 3:07 wrote:

I have an Android (prepaid) phone, and using 3G either for browsing or tethered data access from the computer, when necessary has always been smooth and easy. It is ridiculously expensive though, no YouTubes even being considered, and if I am stuck somewhere without a decent broadband connection I choose very carefully whether to activate 3G or stay with 2G.

Arun Mehta on Sat, Dec 24, 2011 at 8:27 AM wrote:

On Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 3:07 PM, Vickram Crishna wrote:
I have an Android (prepaid) phone, and using 3G either for browsing or tethered data access from the computer, when necessary has always been smooth and easy. It is ridiculously expensive though, no YouTubes even being considered, and if I am stuck somewhere without a decent broadband connection I choose very carefully whether to activate 3G or stay with 2G.

This illustrates well the point I have been making all along: what chance do you give a service such as 3G, competing against a combo of 2G and WiFi, when for 3G they paid astronomical sums for spectrum, while for the former they paid (almost) nothing.

This lesson is taught to us as kids -- the story of the golden goose...

Arun Mehta on Sat, Dec 24, 2011 at 8:30 AM wrote:

misspoke: it should be:
what chance do you give a service such as 3G where they paid astronomical sums for spectrum, competing against a combo of 2G andWiFi, for which spectrum they paid (almost) nothing.

Akshay Mishra on Sat, Dec 24, 2011 at 10:51 AM wrote:

but is the claim that the current allocation is expensive or the previous given almost for free? As per economists, esp Ken Binmore who designed UK auction claims that auction costs are sunk costs and may not influence the charges to subscribers. Also the current spectrum price was the bidders own doing.
We assume they had a business plan that qualified it ?

Vickram Crishna on Sat, Dec 24, 2011 at 11:16 AM wrote:

[We assume they had a business plan that qualified it ?]

We do? On what grounds? When bandwidth enters new ranges of delivery, the user experience and the basket of services that build around it are almost certainly new, for which no business case makes sense other than filling some paper. Yes, probably the bidders did create such bumph, but to hold them to it isn't tenable.

The only thing wrong about auctions is the tendency for an auction to fuel greed, rather than sense.

In any case, there is little reason to think that the only way in which to deliver bandwidth across the country is by slicing it out to corporate entities, who in the process of raising the money to meet the costs, have contributed in no small way to building a bubble that shows no sign of gaining enough strength to hold.

Of course, in trying to prop up BSNL/MTNL who are a bit tardy in rolling out their own countrywide networks, the government is favouring a different failed/failing method.

Akshay Mishra on Sat, Dec 24, 2011 at 5:07 PM wrote:

I am all for open and free spectrum but with responsible usage. But since that does not seem to happen and the corporates abuse free spectrum the only way to control them may be to pay them through the nose.

Wi-Fi Links are used by almost all operators. The stipulated maximum power is 36dBm but there is no audit and all abuse it. Using 24dBi antennas on 27dBm radios is pretty standard and I know of atleast 5 spots in 4 different cities where the Wi-Fi antennas on one terrace are more than 100. Each increasing gain by using large antennas and the resulting chaos is simply fantastic

Since Wi-Fi spectrum is free, it is used for Internet connectivity in smaller cities (ah, even Mumbai but then it is difficult to get LoS in Mumbai). So much for free spectrum.

Any 2G spectrum was 'almost' free, they still charged 1 rupee/SMS. Proposing a method different to auction is romantic as of now and giving it for even at this 67k crores looks like giving it for free.

Arun Mehta on Mon, Dec 26, 2011 at 1:28 PM wrote:

Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. Remember basic services, how high the bidding then went? Needed the Prime Minister to sort that one out, via the "revenue share" method.

Similarly, when FM radio licenses were auctioned, I am told that the winning bidders in Mumbai had together agreed to pay more as license fees than all FM stations in the US put together! With a little help from Ficci and Amit Mitra, they too went over to revenue share.,

So, our approach to spectrum management seems to be to reward the most irresponsible bidders, whom we do not expect to actually pay what they bid. In the case of 3G, they did have to pay, which is why the service is unattractive to most phone users, and doomed to go the way of prior golden-egg laying geese.

On Sat, Dec 24, 2011 at 5:07 PM, Akshay Mishra wrote:
I am all for open and free spectrum but with responsible usage. But since that does not seem to happen and the corporates abuse free spectrum the only way to control them may be to pay them through the nose.

Why not stricter enforcement of maximum power regulations for all spectrum? Put a few guys in jail with lots of publicity, and the rest will quickly fall in line.

Any 2G spectrum was 'almost' free, they still charged 1 rupee/SMS. Proposing a method different to auction is romantic as of now and giving it for even at this 67k crores looks like giving it for free.

I think you are confusing two separate issues here. Since auctions do not work -- and even the vaunted 3G one is likely to be no better -- we need to look at alternatives. Nobody promoting smart radio technologies is asking that all spectrum be managed smartly. All we are asking is for a reasonable slice of bandwidth, to show how this technology can allow spectrum sharing without hurting those who continue to use the spectrum conventionally.

As in the case of Internet telephony, why do we seek to protect the telcos from technological progress?

ashok Jhunjhunwala on Mon, Dec 26, 2011 at 2:33 PM wrote:

Very well said. The problem is that there are enough in the world who sings “auction is the only way.” In India it is clear that auctions have hurt the nation, not once but twice.

The problem is however of deciding who all to give license -- after that, revenue share works best for the country as well as for telecom operators. But entry has to be determined. When more operators want to enter and there is room for less, how do we select. This is a dilemma, which has no easy answer. Auction-wallas win here – but creating its own distortions. Auction appears to be only transparent process – else the CAGs, Anna-walas and press will all jump.

Siddhesh Joglekar on Mon, Dec 26, 2011 at 3:05 wrote:

My two cents -

Within 3G- the broader issue, there are many smaller problems as well. Ever tried using 3G outside Mumbai, even say on the expressway beyond Kharghar? Or on the outskirts of Bengaluru - say Yelahanka? You can't , because it doesn't exist. So, the nationwide 3G deployment is a myth even now - Why should anyone as a consumer, pay such heavy 3G charges when they are going to give GPRS / EDGE anyways?

Then there is the whole Intra circle roaming issue. The coopetition among telecom companies is not acceptable to the telecom regulator and that promises to derail any kind of service delivery promises that operators can make to consumers. The auction rule makers should have thought of this outcome where an IDEA customer cannot use 3G in Mumbai, but can do so outside Mumbai.

So overall, imho, 3G is descending into chaos as of now.

Akshay Mishra on Mon, Dec 26, 2011 at 3:08 PM wrote:

But the culprit seems to be the auction method and not the decision to use auctions. sequential auctions or simultaneous ascending auctions/SAA as they are called, may not have been the correct choice. I cannot say what could have been better but taking the US/UK solution and blindly porting it here can be one of the reason for unexpected results.

Kiritkumar Lathia on Mon, Dec 26, 2011 at 3:42 PM wrote:

Auction could have included "revenue share" as a condition and let the auctioneer decide on the amount (both initial down payment and % revenue share) which would have allowed better return. Revenue share and auction are not mutually exclusive!

The big issue is the lack of roaming (BTW if Intra-circle is not allowed then does it mean that international roaming is also not allowed? What is being created here?)

Concerning coverage, it would be normal that the metro are targeted first. The base-station coverage radius is much smaller in 3G than in 2G and in fact coupled with lower power emission the trend is to go towards much more targeted coverage with smart antennas, etc. to use micro/pico cell structure to optimise use of spectrum and energy - this would explain no 3G coverage outside highly populated areas as the operator tries to recover investments.

Arun Mehta <arun.mehta@gmail.com> on Mon, Dec 26, 2011 at 3:45 PM wrote:

On Mon, Dec 26, 2011 at 2:33 PM, ashok Jhunjhunwala wrote:
The problem is however of deciding who all to give license -- after that, revenue share works best for the country as well as for telecom operators.

Smart radio and spectrum sharing is a neat way out of this. in this model, you make spectrum available free to those willing to show due respect to existing users of the spectrum, as well as abide by rules for good community behavior --- as in the case of the rules governing WiFi. Government should simply ask for a share of the revenue of anyone providing a commercial service via the spectrum.

A further big disadvantage with auctions is that they give government the role of technology god -- it gets to decide when a technology is allowed into the country, and how it is used.

ashok Jhunjhunwala on Mon, Dec 26, 2011 at 3:47 PM wrote:

Well revenue share was very much there – auction was the “entry price.” The culprit is “shortage” – only a few can afford to win – no one could afford to win and no one could afford to lose.

Kingsly John on Mon, Dec 26, 2011 at 5:18 PM wrote:

+++ Kiritkumar Lathia [2011-12-26 11:12:08]:
The big issue is the lack of roaming (BTW if Intra-circle is not allowed then does it mean that international roaming is also not allowed? What is being created here?)

Inter-circle and International roaming is not being questioned at all. It's only "intra-circle" roaming that is being contested.

The problem is with existing 2G operators who didn't pay for the spectrum being able to offer 3G services by piggybacking on those that did.(In effect becoming 3G MVNOs when the telecom policy doesn't allow for it.) Or those that paid for spectrum, colluding with each other and not rolling out dedicated networks of their own and instead piggybacking on each others networks to achieve a wider network rollout.

This could deny customers a choice of networks and creates a single point of failure. And is inefficient use of spectrum if all the operators don't use up the spectrum they've paid for.

Concerning coverage, it would be normal that the metro are targeted first. The base-station coverage radius is much smaller in 3G than in 2G and in fact coupled with lower power emission the trend is to go towards much more targeted coverage with smart antennas, etc. to use micro/pico cell structure to optimise use of spectrum and energy - this would explain no 3G coverage outside highly populated areas as the operator tries to recover investments.

Yeah but it goes against the governments stated goals of improving broadband/internet coverage in rural areas. So they've failed in drafting the right kind of license/regime/policy that ensures quality
coverage/connectivity to the vast majority of the population who are without decent internet access. (And by going for the greedy windfall auction route, they've also ensured that even if such a network is rolled out, people wouldn't be able to afford the inflated rates.)

Vickram Crishna on Tue, Dec 27, 2011 at 8:03 AM wrote:

[The problem is with existing 2G operators who didn't pay for the spectrum being able to offer 3G services by piggybacking on those that did.(In effect becoming 3G MVNOs when the telecom policy doesn't allow for it.)]

"Didn't pay" or decided with evidently good business sense that the price was too high? As far as 'piggybacking' is concerned, it also comes at a cost. Only that cost does not go to the government, and now, instead of opting to derive revenue from it, it is being banned entirely, presumably at some loss to consumers.

[Or those that paid for spectrum, colluding with each other and not rolling out dedicated networks of their own and instead piggybacking on each others networks to achieve a wider network rollout.]

Surely they all already had networks? And when tower sharing is declared government policy, what other kind of piggybacking is being discussed here? Sharing of switching equipment? Seriously, if that is possible, the entire veneer of exclusive networks becomes a rather big fat lie. Tell me it isn't true. For if the technology itself supports multiple 'faces' of operators through shared equipment, then we are wasting a whole pile of money on putting together spotty delivery of 3G bandwidth, in the process boosting the market price of the operators, and loading consumers with the need to pay back the vendors for the infructuous investments in unneeded hardware.

Best of all, there is no incentive to take 3G to rural areas, and none to work out pricing that will attract rural consumers into taking advantage of access. It doesn't even attract an elitist e-choupal type of thing, since cellular either is, or isn't - no cherrypicked isolated cells can be 'lit up'. Despite the existence of the Planning Commission, there is no sense of policy integration visible in the independent and chaotic policies of the various ministries, which operate in tightly competitive silos. This goes far beyond mere telecom, of course, but is regrettable nonetheless.

I have seen in this thread repeated references to revenue earning on the part of the government, often in support of the auction route, which generated solid chunks of cash for the exchequer. This does not, and quite spectacularly, as the succeeding reports on the Human Development Index reveal, result in raising the standard of living across the board - quite the opposite, as we know - it is driving up an economic divide that has grave societal consequences.

Kingsly John on Tue, Dec 27, 2011 at 8:58 AM wrote:

[The problem is with existing 2G operators who didn't pay for the spectrum being able to offer 3G services by piggybacking on those that did.(In effect becoming 3G MVNOs when the telecom policy doesn't allow for it.)]

"Didn't pay" or decided with evidently good business sense that the price was too high? As far as 'piggybacking' is concerned, it also comes at a cost. Only that cost does not go to the government, and now, instead of opting to derive revenue from it, it is being banned entirely, presumably at some loss to consumers.

Well, DoT didn't think this one through before the auction. And they've explictly clarified that it was acceptable. So I don't see how this ban will ever hold up in court.

And yes the government is only worried about the fact that the operators who didn't pay the government for 3G are offering the service.

[Or those that paid for spectrum, colluding with each other and not rolling out dedicated networks of their own and instead piggybacking on each others networks to achieve a wider network rollout.]

Surely they all already had networks? And when tower sharing is declared government policy, what other kind of piggybacking is being discussed here? Sharing of switching equipment? Seriously, if that is possible, the entire veneer of exclusive networks becomes a rather big fat lie. Tell me it isn't true. For if the technology itself supports multiple 'faces' of operators through shared equipment, then we are wasting a whole pile of money on putting together spotty delivery of 3G bandwidth, in the process boosting the market price of the operators, and loading consumers with the need to pay back the vendors for the infructuous investments in unneeded hardware.

Not sharing of networks, just not building/rolling out networks at all. The government expected the auction winners to build one circle wide network each. But if the three winners in each circle collude to split the circle into three parts among themselves and only rollout networks in 1/3rd of the circle.(Thereby saving about 66% in upfront rollout costs) And in the remaining areas their customers will be "roaming" on the other operator's network.(Just like the current non-3G winning 2G operators' customers are "roaming")

This is what currently happens in some parts of the UK where none of the operators had rolled out networks in some pockets even many years after winning the 3G spectrum in a similar windfall auction. Finally the Govt./Regulator there was forced to allow them to allow this kind of roaming, where one operator would build/operate the network and others would roam on it. As this was the only viable option to get 3G to those areas.

Tower sharing would only help if all 3 auction winners decide to follow the exact same cell size/layout across the state and share towers everywhere, since the winners already have their existing (shared/independent) 2G towers across the circle and they'd probably be trying to re-use the same ones for 3G as much as possible. They wouldn't want to invest in multiple towers and pay for 2x the land/generators etc in the same area (esp. in ones that they don't consider to be worth investing in to begin with.)

Best of all, there is no incentive to take 3G to rural areas, and none to work out pricing that will attract rural consumers into taking advantage of access. It doesn't even attract an elitist e-choupal type of thing, since cellular either is, or isn't - no cherrypicked isolated cells can be 'lit up'. Despite the existence of the Planning Commission, there is no sense of policy integration visible in the independent and chaotic policies of the various ministries, which operate in tightly competitive silos. This goes far beyond mere telecom, of course, but is regrettable nonetheless.

Of course the Planning Commission feels that a 12-digit UID is more useful for the rural folk than a 10-digit mobile number or an IP Address.

I have seen in this thread repeated references to revenue earning on the part of the government, often in support of the auction route, which generated solid chunks of cash for the exchequer. This does not, and quite spectacularly, as the succeeding reports on the Human Development Index reveal, result in raising the standard of living across the board - quite the opposite, as we know - it is driving up an economic divide that has grave societal consequences.

All the revenue from the 3G auctions will be spent on UIDAI/Aadhar. So there is no money left for anything else.

Banibrata Dutta on Tue, Dec 27, 2011 at 12:33 PM wrote:

Right, but there is an obvious problem with that approach. If I have just one lousy lead-laden, rusty old pipe running to my home, it doesn't matter if I'm paying my water bill to state water board, or to someone who claims to be selling mineral water bottles, because in either case, the water source is same. Just the marketing front end and bill-collection is done by different folks. Today with 2G, the same phone with 3 different SIM cards from 3 different operators gives me different signal-strength (RSSI) at the same location.

So the idea behind having multiple licensees (not essentially spectrum owners), in same circle, was probably just to ensure competition only on service pricing, and not on quality-of-service.

 This is what currently happens in some parts of the UK where none of the operators had rolled out networks in some pockets even many years after winning the 3G spectrum in a similar windfall auction. Finally the Govt./Regulator there was forced to allow them to allow this kind of roaming, where one operator would build/operate the network and others would roam on it. As this was the only viable option to get 3G to those areas.

Right. And, we have managed to recreated the exact same situation that exists in UK, even if we had an advantage of leveraging learnings, for several years. The point is "viability". The viability become questionable not because of low uptake or lack of interest, but because of the huge upfront investment in form of spectrum fee that was paid. I think Vikram and Arun are highlighting that point. Having been following their stand since the pre 3G spectrum auction dates, I think they had very well predicted the outcome. As a nay sayer then, I can't help acknowledge how right they were.

Tower sharing would only help if all 3 auction winners decide to follow the exact same cell size/layout across the state and share towers everywhere, since the winners already have their existing (shared/independent) 2G towers across the circle and they'd probably be trying to re-use the same ones for 3G as much as possible. They wouldn't want to invest in multiple towers and pay for 2x the land/generators etc in the same area (esp. in ones that they don't consider to be worth investing in to begin with.)

Tower sharing doesn't mean that all the operators using a given tower have exactly similar size / overlapping cell dimensions. Tower sharing, might lead to radio interface sharing, using same antenna, but I think this isn't quite the norm. A service provider can differentiate, on the basis of quality of service -- s.a. better, denser coverage, more no. of available channels per unit area etc., by leasing a more dense lattice of RF infrastructure.

Best of all, there is no incentive to take 3G to rural areas, and none to work out pricing that will attract rural consumers into taking advantage of access. It doesn't even attract an elitist e-choupal type of thing, since cellular either is, or isn't - no cherrypicked isolated cells can be 'lit up'. Despite the existence of the Planning Commission, there is no sense of policy integration visible in the independent and chaotic policies of the various ministries, which operate in tightly competitive silos. This goes far beyond mere telecom, of course, but is regrettable nonetheless.

Of course the Planning Commission feels that a 12-digit UID is more useful for the rural folk than a 10-digit mobile number or an IP Address.

If the statement was being sarcastic, then I can understand. 3G in rural areas will face an initial chicken-&-egg problem, and will have a definitely longer gestation to reach critical mass. Also when we talk of rural India, I am sure "rural" could be sub-categorized into 5-6 odd levels. It is not just a uniform black-n-white India.

While 10-digit mobile number as an identity is a nice & innovative thought for a mobile operator ad, for population which is already a multiple of billions, one cannot afford to use a 10-digit number for id. We have enough number of MSISDN's stuck with people having very low-usage and owning multiple SIM cards. However, that may not entirely justify or explain the solution being a 12-digit UID.

I have seen in this thread repeated references to revenue earning on the part of the government, often in support of the auction route, which generated solid chunks of cash for the exchequer. This does not, and quite spectacularly, as the succeeding reports on the Human Development Index reveal, result in raising the standard of living across the board - quite the opposite, as we know - it is driving up an economic divide that has grave societal consequences.

All the revenue from the 3G auctions will be spent on UIDAI/Aadhar. So thereis no money left for anything else.

Mega projects projected as being for social good, as most might agree are large sink-holes for draining the exchequer. These are difficult to track, difficult to question, easy to siphon-off from and difficult to object to (since they are also populist). UIDAI was probably difficult for the common-man to understand, as being good or evil. I think the masses were never able to form an opinion about it, so it was bad investment. Also, it was drawing some close scrutiny. The favourite of the season is going to be the Food Security bill. The mother of all sink holes. Anyway, we digress.

Akshay Mishra on Tue, Dec 27, 2011 at 1:04 PM wrote

In this case, government should allow each subscriber to choose their 3G carrier. SIM should be network operator independent. let there by a QoS and price that I know for each operator and let me choose my carrier for each time I access my network.

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