One thing has gone unnoticed amidst all the 3G controversies-China will begin 3G services ahead of India!

Though China is ahead on almost all economic parameters , competition has been neck and neck in the telecom sector. China is the largest market and India the second largest, but we are the fastest growing market. And we could easily have been ahead of China in 3G services, had it not been for the bureaucratic and ministerial wrangling.

On September 26, 2009, it will be three years since Trai submitted its detailed recommendations on 3G spectrum auction and related issues. Be sure that full-scale 3G services will elude us as we enter this third anniversary. Before this, we will have achieved another milestone thanks to our bureaucratic delays—in March it will be three years since Trai submitted its recommendations on mobile number portability, where also we have missed the January deadline of implementation in metro cities.

What defies logic is that when a full-fledged policy on 3G was announced on August 1, 2008, why should issues like reserve prices and number of slots to be auctioned in each circle arise when the time for conducting auctions nears? The answer is clear: someone, somewhere is not convinced about the whole process and does not want things to happen on time.

Not very surprising when our policymakers’ approach is one of first digging a pit and then filling it, and repeating the exercise continuously. When a detailed recommendation was provided by the regulator after an exhaustive, transparent and consultative process, the babus got in the way to prove their importance. Those worried about the revenue realisation should only look at last 12 years’ telecom history to contrast what we had projected by way of getting from mobile services with what we are actually getting.

And while the communications and IT minister’s largesse in awarding new telecom licenses at throw-away price goes unnoticed even as the same companies sell stakes at exorbitant valuations, a new, technologically relevant service is being held hostage to hairsplitting arguments over potential revenue realisation.

posted by JEEVAN