A post on mobile and India after a really long time. Interest got rekindled after reading the lovely interview on Indian @ Wharton with ISB’s Ravi Bapna (I gotta mail him) and Stern’s Arun Sundarajan on Spectrum revenues and Infrastructure subsidy. Excerpts from the interview:
looks like the infrastructure rollout costs over the next few years to get to that target of a few hundred million subscribers are going to be on the order of a minimum of $20-25 billion. But the flipside is that the revenue opportunity is actually extremely large given the numbers.
You don’t know how these things unfold. The rural segment could well surprise us in terms of the usage. Of course, there is a big market for micro credit, for insurance and for all kinds of services to get out there.
I think the more important issue is that the Defense Ministry and the Telecommunications Ministry need to really sit down together — perhaps under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s office — and take this as a national priority and resolve the issues. I think that is the key issue, and I think once that gets held, the spectrum should get rolled out. The operators are ready. Talking to them, they are just waiting for the regulatory “cholesterol” to sort of disappear and they want to start making money.
As Ravi mentioned, there are at least three layers here. You’ve got device manufacturers. You’ve got infrastructure and service providers. And you’ve got content providers. And unless there is a strong enough belief among the content providers that there’s going to be sufficient infrastructure fast enough, the content is not going to appear. If the content does not appear, the value of the infrastructure as perceived by the consumer is lower.
Nokia has a big manufacturing facility now, and they are trying to look at ethnographically how people in emerging markets would use the phone differently. So, things that they can learn from [India] probably would translate well into other emerging markets all over the world.
Overall, I think the picture looks good on these fronts. But getting these three or four key constituencies aligned in one direction, particularly the content side and fostering innovation …
Apple’s claim that the iPhone is five years ahead of any other mobile is nonsense, in terms of actual tech specifications. In particular, the antiquated data system lets it down badly. However, as a user experience it is probably about 10 years ahead.
Using the iPhone makes you feel quite angry towards other mobile manufacturers. What have they been doing? Fobbing us of with such truly awful interfaces?
However, I am conscious that where we do benefit on other platforms is the wealth of third party applications. If Apple could sort out the camera, data speed and keyboard the iPhone would still not be perfect, but it wouldn’t be far off.