By Faisal Kawoosa
There is a lot of buzz around across the government as well as industry around ‘Connecting’. But, there is no common definition of the same. Hearing various perspectives on the same, there seems to be a lot of flavors of the same primarily biased by the technologies and solutions each industry member is pursuing.
However, this should not be the case as far as policy is concerned. Various experts and policy makers at the recently concluded India Mobile Congress, 1st edition, had different flavors of connectivity to discuss while sharing views on ‘Connecting the Unconnected’.
There are traditionalists in the industry who define connecting as bringing someone onto a connected platform, which could just be a landline connection, mobile for voice calls, etc. For other modernists, connecting means enabling internet connectivity to the unconnected. Even within this provisioning of internet, there are different views; some feel just any flavor of internet is enablement, while others opine it has to be a high-speed wireless internet for real empowerment.
No doubt, all these definitions and views are correct. But for India to achieve the objective of connecting the unconnected, the definition of ‘Connecting’ has to be unambiguous. And this ambiguity has to clear from the policy level. Only then schemes and programs could be devised by government and industry would fall in line.
With rapid changes around, ‘Connecting the unconnected’ is also taking a non-human view, where the focus is on connecting the devices and other infrastructure around to become interactive. The government and the regulator has to be clear about what connecting means. Then only it could be ascertained which all technologies and probably industry players are working in that direction.
Take the case of Jio as a disruptive operator. If we look at it within the present confused interpretation of ‘connecting the unconnected’, it is also doing this while other incumbents are also doing the same by probably bringing first timers on a mobile platform where the use case might be just pure voice.
Similarly, if the objective is to digitally connect the unconnected, then technology like VoLTE becomes paramount so that even voice traffic travels over IP networks, hence digital, eventually making everything data and there remains nothing as such separate voice traffic.
As we are around the corner for new telecom policy and there are going to be a number of next versions of various other inter-related policies, this basic question needs the paramount attention and quantifiable objectives be set against each. That would drive telephony in all environments be it rural, semi-urban, urban or uber-urban.
This would be supported by micro-ecosystems comprising of government, vendors, operators, integrators and value-adders.
There is no harm if we adopt an evolutionary definition of ‘connecting’ in line with the environment being talked within. After all, what ‘connecting’ meant in urban areas a decade ago does not mean the same today and would not be what it is today. So, while addressing the larger issues of defining technologies and roadmaps, let’s also devote some efforts in resolving the fundamentals like as to what ‘Connecting’ means.
(The author is General Manager, Research & Consulting, at CyberMedia Research.)