24 August, 2005

10 years of mobile telephony in India -New Delhi Times
Exactly ten years ago, Jyoti Basu in Calcutta called Sukh Ram in Delhi in what was the first mobile phone call in India. Brick sized cell phones used to cost Rs. 45,000 and each call costed Rs. 16.5/minute. Back then, cell phone was a status symbol. Today, there are over 60 million mobile connections in India (expected to double in number in next 12 months). A local call costs around Rs 1/min and a cell phone can be purchased for less than Rs. 3000.

Wireless technology has been a boon for India. In a country where setting up wired infratstructure is very expensive and time consuming, wireless is the perfect solution to connect remote villages. The timing was also just right as India escaped the burnden of legacy technology and reaped the benefits of latest GSM technology.

Cell phones have not been just about technology. They have brought about a cultural change in the country. SMS is the favorite means of communication for everybody today. Most television programs now come with an SMS contest. A recent headline in a Hindi newspaper read Cell phone companies to ban gayi, ab kaun banega crorepati (Cell phone companies already became millionaires, now who wants to be the next millionaire) in reference an SMS contest to gain entry into Kaun Banega Crorepati.

Of late, cell phones have brought the citizen journalism revolution to India, albeit in an unexpected way. Camera phones and MMS have created our own desi papparazi which spares neither bollywood personalities nor corrupt government officials. The recent DPS MMS scandal even led to wrongful arrest of the CEO of Bazee.com.

Urban India has transformed completely in the last 10 years. Indians have demonstrated that they are not afraid to embrace technology and illiteracy doesn't hinder adoption of technology, provided it is useful to the masses. We have yet to see the same revolution in the computing space. May the next 10 years witness the computer revolution!

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