Third-generation mobile telephony is set to lure Indian consumers with its speed and cost-effectiveness
Third-generation (3G) network services are set to hit the Indian telecom market this year. The country is projected to have a 3G subscriber base of about 200 million in the next three years. It is likely to have sold 395 million 3G handsets by 2013, according to an Evalueserve report .
Analysts agree that 3G would definitely usher in good quality data services for subscribers. Naveen Mishra, lead analyst (Telecom Research), IDC India, says: “Indian consumers would be able to access new- age services like video-on-demand, live TV, among other things. India, with an estimated 50 per cent of its population under the age of 35 years, is set to witness greater demand for content centred on sports and entertainment.”
Here are a few things you need to know before plunging into the 3G era:
What is 3G?
Third-generation, or 3G, mobile phone network means that large amounts of data (along with voice) can be transferred quickly and cost-effectively. In simple words, 3G networks can potentially offer a speed of up to 3 Mbps (about 15 seconds to download a three-minute MP3 file) as against the existing 2G networks that deliver up to 144 Kbps (nearly eight minutes to download a three-minute MP3 file).
With the first two generations of mobile phone networks, we could talk and send messages wherever there was signal. With the help of the 3G technology, we will now be able to send data like movie clips and music around the world from our mobile phones in a matter of seconds.
Carrying a 3G smartphone will be similar to carrying a tiny laptop in your pocket —you could stream TV programmes, send and receive faxes, download documents over the air and even check your email.
What will 3G mean to average users?
Probably not much to begin with, but analysts still forecast that about 50 per cent of the total urban customers will opt for 3G services by 2013.
New generation services, such as video telephony, banking services, mobile-learning and mobile-governance, should provide convenience and mobility to the 600-million telecom subscriber base. Also, easy access to banking services is expected to attract urban consumers, while mobile governance will be more popular among rural consumers.
Users need to keep in mind two basic issues while upgrading to 3G services — the migration fee for existing subscriber and the increase in service fees.
At present, the migration fee charged by BSNL and MTNL (for 3G services) is about Rs 60. Further, with the entry of other mobile network operators in the 3G services, the migration fee is likely to decline and may even be made free as part of 3G subscriber acquisition strategy, estimates Nitin Navish Gupta of Evalueserve.
Clearly, the 3G service fee will be at a premium, compared to 2G services. For instance, 3G subscribers of BSNL and MTNL are required to pay a fixed monthly or one-time charge while selecting prepaid or postpaid plans. BSNL prepaid subscribers are required to recharge with a minimum of Rs 120 for availing of the basic 3G plan. For postpaid subscribers, an additional fee of Rs 25 per month is charged for 3G services.
Why should you buy a 3G phone?
If you want multimedia services on your phone, you will have to buy a 3G-enabled phone. The price range of 3G-capable handsets varies from Rs 4,000 to above Rs 30,000. Therefore, the switching cost for handsets would vary from user to user, depending on needs and application preferences.
Abhishek Khanna, analyst, Evalueserve believes handset manufacturers will begin to focus on providing inexpensive 3G handsets to ensure the demand for 3G handset increases among the youth (which is a key segment for pushing 3G data services).