Indian 3G to take off finally as telecom tribunal TDSAT allows roaming

Indian telecom subscribers, industry stakeholders, mobile carriers, smartphone vendors waited for nearly four years to know that TSPs with 3G can offer roaming without any financial penalty. This was revealed by TDSAT in its verdict. The impact: 3G mobile data will see growth if telecoms start investing in networks.

This will be considered as a major setback to bureaucrats sitting in the Department of Telecom (DoT) and TRAI officials who drafted the initial policy. Interestingly, everyone in the industry argued that telecoms violated policy guidelines.

All 3G operators did not buy spectrum across the country since buying airwaves at exorbitant price was not suitable. Since Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular did not have pan-India presence, they joined hands to offer 3G across India. This is because Indian mobile carriers never wanted to follow British Telecom which partially collapsed due to 3G pay out.

3G in India

The current 3G scenario is not healthy. For instance, Idea Cellular’s 3G subscriber base now stands at 10.2 million after adding 5.1 million users in FY 2013. The 3G user mobile data ARPU is steady at Rs 111 per month. Lack of adequate monetization from mobile data reflects death knell for a telecom carrier.

Also read: Idea Cellular FY 2014 result: Revenues up 17%, adds 5.1 mn 3G users

For comparison, China Telecom added 1.03 million 3G subscribers in Q1 2014 against 6.63 million in Q4 2013 and 9.15 million in Q3 2013.

Also read: China Telecom Q1 2014 result: revenues up 7%, LTE demand eats into 3G

Indian telecom service Reliance Communications, which announced its 3G roaming pact with Aircel and Tata Teleservices (TTSL) on Monday said it is expected to increase the number of its 36.2 million data customers by offering better data services across the country.

Also read: Reliance Communications offers 3G national roaming; where’s coverage?

The immediate effect of the TDSAT ruling is that three telecom carriers Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular will be free from paying a cumulative penalty of Rs 1,200 crore imposed on them by DoT. TDSAT verdict one again opens up transparency issues and lack of long term policies in the Indian telecom industry. Were DoT officials did not have enough policy knowledge to support their case before TDSAT? Can Indian policies be interpreted according to circumstances of the sector? It is a shame on policy makers.

3G means business. Policy makers never tried to create a positive atmosphere for telecom service providers. Airtel paid Rs 12,295 crore for 3G spectrum in 13 circles, Vodafone Rs 11,617 crore for nine and Idea Cellular Rs 5,768.59 crore for in 11 circles. It’s time to monetize. But 3G coverage and speed is a big block for mobile data adoption.

Baburajan K
[email protected]

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