The year 2011 has been an exciting one for the telecom
industry. With 3G finally surfacing on the Indian telecom horizon, customers
were promised an end to the inconsistent voice network, and additionally
provided with a plethora of data applications like live mobile TV, video
calling, video and music streaming, video conferencing, and much more. The
far-reaching effects that MNP had on operators’ ARPUs (Average Revenue per
User) were seen in 2011, and also the stiff competition for lower-priced
services that emerged as a result of this. Consumer showed higher adoption of
Smartphones and Smartphone applications. App stores by device manufacturers and
by operators proved to be brand differentiators. Consumers had choices and more
pull-based strategy worked for higher adoption. A plethora of new handheld
devices/tablets influenced the adoption positively.
Going by the trends in telecom in 2011, one can easily
assume that cost optimization will become increasingly prevalent, operators
will make customer service improvements, and smart devices and mobile app
ecosystems will continue to be a catalyst for significant changes in operator
strategy in 2012. The other key telecoms trends will include an explosion of
interest in customer service. 4G will be ready to enter India in 2012 and it will be priced nearly equivalent to what
users pay for existing 3G data services.
From the policy perspective, it is a
challenging environment and in my view it stems from the fact that telecom, for
a diverse country like ours, is infrastructure (like electricity and water) and
riding on top of the infrastructure are services that promise range of benefits
connectivity, entertainment, economic and social upliftment etc..
Regulatory push-pull comes from figuring out how to ensure coverage,
competition, and affordability on one side and network/service operator
profitability on the others. The draft New Telecom Policy 2011 is a
positive vision statement and sets lofty targets however it remains to be seen
what can get implemented in 2012. I expect that licensing regime for CNSOs
and CSDOs will get implemented in 2012 and I hope that a balance is struck that
provides incentive to both operator types to continue to drive innovation in
this vital sector.
By Anshoo Gaur, India