Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cell-iberate the liberation | 02/26/2007 | India's great leveler: cell phones

I, like Mr. Tharoor, have a favorite story on cellphone use in India. During my 2003 holiday I hired a cab (taxi) to take me from Madikeri to Mangalore. The driver had a cellphone with the ringtone set to the tune of the famous prayer - Venkatesha Suprabhatam. I thought that was bloody neat - to be remind of the Lord when someone called and to get your prayers done before you yak. During that whole trip I never was without a phone. Whenever I needed one I would use the nearest pay phone or borrow the driver's phone. In 2005 I went one better I bought myself a "lifetime prepaid" SIM card.

I still remember the day when my brother implored me to tell our dad that we do need to put the deposit for OYT (Own your telephone) and get the phone. This was probably in the late 80s. It feels like a long time. Today, there has been a leapfrog effect - people are skipping the landline or POTS completely and jumping on to mobile. And, I suspect something similar will happen in the Internet access area. I think there is a good chance that majority of the population will skip wired access and go straight to wireless.

It is not lost on me that the telecom revolution is in India is essentially a mobile phone revolution that had very little to do with the government. Yes, the government did not put spanner in the works but that is about it. It is likely the government's hands were tied due to the economic situation. I only hope the government continues to play the role of passive observer.

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