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  CCAOI Invites you to a round table conference on “IANA Transition & ICANN Accountability Process and India's Position” on 30th May, 2015, at Silver Oak 1 Hall, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi | A study on the Indian Perspective on IANA Stewardship Transition.
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The Financial Express -August 18, 2009 ROTI, KAPDA, MAKAN AND MOBILE ( Nripendra Misra)
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There is plenty of evidence to show that telephony, internet and broadband penetration have a high correlation with GDP per capita. One estimate is that if a country has 1% higher mobile subscriber rate, its GDP per capita is enhanced up to $200. In case of broadband, the increase is around $ 1,500. There are also enough surveys to establish that access to information and communication technologies boosts social interaction, infrastructural transformation and business opportunities. Not to mention more transparent governance that addresses public agenda speedily.
Teledensity in urban India is above 70%, with rural areas lagging behind at around 16%. If an effective mechanism isn’t developed to increase telecom penetration in rural India, all sorts of economic spinoffs —better education, improved market access for products, improved employment opportunities —will remain a distant dream. But different agencies offer widely divergent pictures of what the future will look like.
One CII study estimates that there will be 700 million subscribers by 2012, with teledensity of around 60%, with 40% of the rural population owning a phone and with total revenues reaching $54 billion. The average revenue per user will decline but be made up through higher minutes of usage, with rural telecom emerging as the new growth constituent. Another 2007 study also estimates that India will cross 700 million subscribers by 2012, adding that for every 10 mobile handsets added per 100 people in a developing country, the country’s GDP growth rate would rise by 0.6%. This study, too, recognises rural India as offering key potential for growth in connectivity.
At the other extreme, a research paper published in February 2009 finds that Indian wireless has already entered a lower growth trajectory and predicts lower ARPUs, depressed margins and higher cost of infrastructure for the.. future. All three reports have based their projections on the growth pattern of rural telephony. Unfortunately, the economic inter-linkages created by the purchasing power of rural folks—with telecom being an affordable item in the rural household budget—have been grossly underestimated.
It’s self-evident that a telephone connection is essential for rural India’s prosperity. Like roti, kapda and makan, the mobile handset is critical to this population’s productive engagement. The government has created a Universal Service Obligation Fund for the development of rural telephony. This Fund has a huge unutilised balance, and Trai has recently recommended its revamping. The suggested strategy requires a major change in the context of convergence, which will benefit consumers provided we are able to stimulate packaged services for rural subscribers.
If e-medicine, e-education, e-governance, e-marketing, mobile banking and e-commerce are to become available to the rural community, both on community and personal basis, the government deliverers of these services must also converge via reliable broadband and high speed connectivity. This will enable rural consumers to choose from a wider range of communications services from a wider range of providers. These will come from the world of telecom, cable TV, satellite TV and many will involve internet access.
If the government has to offer supporting infrastructure for such developments, it must develop a framework along the lines of ‘Missions’ sponsored for other economic activities. A practical idea would be to convert the present Universal Service Obligation Fund framework into such a Mission, with wide inter-disciplinary reach. This would entail expenditure on content creation in different regional languages, subsidised consumer premises equipment, financial support for infrastructure in rural areas and chaupal-like service centres. All this will be feasible if the Mission is given 100% central assistance.

The author is former chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
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