Sunday, 30 September 2012

The future of high speed data services in India

It's been quite long since the talks about the market and future of data intensive services in India are going about. One can put a point that 3G was not a runaway success in India and thereby question its future, but by subscribing to that viewpoint would be a gross miscalculation. The human civilization has never adopted changes in such feverish pace as in the case after the industrial revolution and even more so in the IT revolution. One has to give any economy some time to develop synergy between the Government, Industry & the citizens when any sweeping reform is bought. Talking about the Indian telecom industry, the growth story has been remarkable where there are an aggregate of about 913 million wireless subscribers by the end of July this year, second only to China.

Indian's have shown their allegiance towards technology by adoption of mobile device, tablets to smart phones and to low end feature phones irrespective of the societal strata they belong. The maturity of the users is also slowly evolving towards understanding the benefits and uses of high data speeds on 3G networks. This is exactly what the operators are waiting for which is reflected by heavy marketing of VAS which users are missing out on. This maturity is just round the corner, and how? Operators and the users go in tandem. As the users evolve, so do the policies of the operators. The recent 3G tariff cut is an indicator. The MVAS industry is warming up to give a plethora of choices to the millions of users. Digivive, in this regard, is one of the leading players in the industry which has its Mobile TV application, nexGTv out there to cater to this burgeoning sector. As the wants of the users would increase with maturity, so would be the mobile industry with better high speed data services and rich media applications providing the much needed reason to the masses to switch to a better network.

Apart from that there is a great impetus from the Government as well in the MVAS arena. In its National Telecom Policy (NTP) 2012, the Government has clearly laid out the objective to 'Promote an ecosystem for participants in VAS industry value chain to make India a global hub for Value Added Services.' Moreover, the NTP is 'designed to ensure that India plays this role effectively and transforms the socio-economic scenario through accelerated equitable and inclusive economic growth by laying special emphasis on providing affordable and quality telecommunication services in rural and remote areas.'

In this case, the role of MVAS is formidable. Probably the biggest empowerment device which is in the hands of the village or Tier III level folks is the mobile device they clinch to. As per the official mandate, the government has to think about inclusive growth which cannot neglect the people who are in the hinterland. This is an immense opportunity area where work needs to be done both by the Government and the Industry by way of providing meaningful services right to the individual/community which is currently extended by few private players in broader areas only. Schemes for using tablets for education is already there which require data rich services. Similarly, many innovative ideas can be implemented removing some big concerns of such people like streamlining of transportation services, agricultural based real time information, or at the other side, even having a video chat with their loved ones. This would truly help bring down the 'Digital Divide' we keep talking about.

Another significant case point for this relatively unchartered territory is the need to unlock new revenue sources. ARPU in Indian telecom industry has taken considerable beating where Voice, SMS and primary VAS services have gone down to razor thin margins which the industry has got itself into. At this juncture, the industry needs to do a rethinking from where it will drive higher profitability and the answer is the data intensive MVAS industry. The growth figures of 3G uptake after the tariff reduction re-establishes the fact that how Indian mobile users mean business when it comes to mobiles. Till end of June this year, 3G had reported a growth of 78% compared to 47% growth of 2G in India. Moreover, as expected, the data consumption of 3G mobile user is about 4 times than that of a 2G mobile user. What the industry needs to look at is to ensure a continuous and affordable offering. Affordability has been taken care of recently but the discontinuity is still a reported issue which fails to give the required punch.
The key is therefore to think about proving the best value proposition to the user, be it the urbane user of a metro or a fellow citizen from a village who have their own aspirations waiting to get true from their handhelds. High speed network is listening to them, which has started taking infant steps to launch a new wave in India.

Friday, 31 August 2012

The Racing G’s in telecom

How many of us would remember the ‘trunk call’ … very few. For present generation it would seem ancient but I am talking of a period which in reality existed just about three decades back. It was a time when the PCO was an innovation. Since then we have come a long way, and the telecom industry has evolved as one of the most important sectors in the country, all thanks to Sam Pitroda’s vision of shaping India’s foreign and domestic telecommunication policies. He is one of the legends for ushering in the telecommunication revolution in India; the founder and first chairman of India’s Telecom Commission. He was instrumental in rolling out the yellow Public Call Office (PCO) boxes that quickly brought cheaper and easy domestic and international public telephones all over the country. While today we have mobile telephony across length and breadth of the country but the technology lifecycle of PCO’s is still thriving. It is not just in rural India but even in metros and for a number of audiences at home that speaking through a PCO is still a preferred medium.

Coming back to the era of big leap in telecom industry and where it all was adopted. Early 90’s was a landmark period for Indian businesses across sectors and a lot of what we see across industries today is because of the economic crisis that forced the Government to open up the economy. And I am of the opinion that any crisis is good for businesses as it brings in innovation which otherwise might not have evolved. Therefore as the economy opened up in 1991; like other sectors, the telecom sector grew rapidly with emergence of private players in equipment manufacturing, networking, VAS, paging and cellular services. The National Telecom Policy was formed in 1994; which clearly was directed to attract FDI and domestic investment in the sector. In August 1995, with the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, Shri Jyoti Basu making the first call through mobile telephone to Union Telecom Minister Sukhram what triggered was the cell phone revolution in the country- beginning of an era of 2G network. Sixteen-seventeen years down the line we now have moved beyond 2G to 3G and now onto the roll out of 4G networks in Kolkata.

With the roll out of 2G wireless digital networks which enabled voice and text messages way back in the late 1990’s, mobile telephony rapidly paced up. From Rs. 8/- for incoming calls in GSM based networks to the emergence of handset manufacturers- Alcatel, Motorola and Nokia, those early years of the mobile telephony aroused excitement and a created new object of desire amongst the consumers- the mobile phone. With Reliance Communications launching their CDMA network and reducing call charges drastically in 2003, mobile telephony started penetrating the middle class. Multiple operators reduced calling charges and mobile phones were all set to become a mass product. It was no more just a statement of style and luxury but a device of utility. For a decade 2G networks ruled with GSM and CDMA platforms and multiple operators such as Airtel, BSNL, Hutch, Tata and Reliance. Since then we have been introduced to multiple plans, multiple offers, reduction in roaming charges, free charges for incoming call which together changed the consumer lifestyle. Most telecom operators with leased network infrastructure have expanded reach to 22 telecom circles and have invested in infrastructure and in providing customer satisfaction. The robustness of the 2G platform supported it all- voice and SMS data.

However with increasing demand of internet accessibility and data services on mobile telephony and emergence of smart phones, India telecom industry had to adopt global innovation of 3G network connectivity which offered a broader pipeline for movement of data services. Demand of consumers for 24*7 social media connectivity, email, mobile commerce, live news, entertainment and video streaming created the need to open up tenders for 3G networks. 3G technologies uses both circuit and packet switching technologies that allows more voice clarity, ease of roaming and sending data over networks. In addition to unmatched voice clarity and faster downloads such as music, videos and games, there are more features that enhance convergence in technologies- internet browsing, mobile TV, video conferencing, video calls, Multi Media Messaging (MMS), Mobile Gaming etc. And as CRISIL Research forecasts- the 3G mobile subscribers in India will reach 90 million.

However with Bharti rolling out 4G services in 2012 and Tata, Reliance following suit and with the Govt opening fresh bids for 2G licenses post the controversy, market is flooded with multiple routes and packages- 2G, 3G & 4G offering voice and data at multiple price points. Operators are strengthening their 2G base to reach out to a larger audience, improving and innovating on 3G networks to rope in more data based consumers and innovating on 4G platforms to offer greater services to enterprise. The present scenario as I see is one wherein from point A to B we have three different routes built in

a) a road, which has maximum traffic, which is 2G in this case,
b) a highway with has toll plaza but larger capacity and
c) an expressway that has multiple toll plaza and innumerable opportunities to explore.

While co-existence of these multiple networks is good for India and it can satiate the needs of consumers and enterprise at multiple levels however consumer awareness needs to increase on the choice of bandwidth- 2G, 3G and 4G. So what does a consumer do? Consumers should opt for networks as per the choice of their device and requirement. Therefore if basic calling is a priority, consumer should choose to be on 2G network and opt for plans for operators in accordance. But if the consumer wants the device to do a bit more- internet, entertainment, apps opt for 3G and 4G for the best of services and accordingly operator plans that optimizes the requirement. However as the market is moving towards increasing technology adoption and smart phone has become a way of life, the load will shift from 2G to 3G and further to 4G networks which in a way would be a boon to the telecom sector in India. Revenue model for operators over the last decade were focused on voice and sms, moving ahead till 2015 it will be a balance of voice and data services. Post 2015 it will be VAS and Data Services will be the bulk of their profit pie. Reiterating, 2G-3G-4G are good for India and it provides a win-win for consumers, operators, Government and people associated with the telecom ecosystem.


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Since the tablet got a new definition

What triggered me to write this blog on tablets is a conversation that I had last week with a tea stall owner in Uttarakhand. I was on my way back from a weekend vacation when my driver decided to stop at a roadside ‘dhaba’. I stepped out too to breathe in the pleasant early morning breeze. I carried the iPad with me and was browsing through emails and calendar for the week ahead. The tea stall owner looked at the device with curiosity and asked, “Sirjee, yeh computer to nahi lag raha hai, kya koi naya video game nikla hai?” (Sir, this doesn’t look like a computer, is it some new video game?). He also clarified that it didn’t resemble much like laptop either. At the same time he was clear that it was some form of a computing device. I said it’s a ‘tablet’ from Apple-iPad. He smiled at the term ‘tablet’ and mentioned “Tablet to doctor log dete the bukhar wagera thik karne ke liye lekin aisa tablet toh maine pehli baar dekha hai”(It was doctors who used to prescribe tablets and now people play with tablets )- that was his interpretation of the technology evolution.

It was funny and satirical but he made his point- while technology has made inroads through hardware, software, application and devices, the advancement is still very much restricted to urban India. Moreover the pace of introducing new products is so fast that even before there is acceptance and adoption in tier II and III cities, there is a range of new devices being launched parallely for consumers in the market. Technology; thus has a small shelf life and in most cases is either upgraded with a new variant or completes its lifecycle too soon - this has been the typical ecosystem of the biggest innovations in the recent days.

In India, as I see other than consumer electronic goods; technology and devices that have impacted tier II and III cities are mobile phones, smart phones, digital cameras, MP3 , USB’s, desktop computing and notebooks. However the future lies in tablets. Now, when I say the future lies in tablets, it is quite a bold statement to make; however  I do foresee a market movement towards the very ironically coined term ‘tablets’. And as Frost & Sullivan study predicts, the Indian tablet market would grow to 23.38 million units by 2017.

If we look at the tablet market in India, it is still at a nascent stage but there are around 100 models from multiple manufacturers/procurers that have launched their version of the tablet device in India. The Olivepad launched just about two years back- July 2010, was one of the first tablet devices in India. Samsung was the first major international brand to launch a tablet- the Samsung Galaxy, which was followed by Apple iPad’s launch in Jan 2011. Therefore entry of tablets in India has been recent in history and we already have a clutter in the market at multiple price points starting from INR 5000. This is much unlike mobile phones where big brands like Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson ruled the roost in the initial days. In a way clutter in the tablet market is good for India, as not only do consumers’ buy tablets at retail, but business users are adopting tablets with concepts like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Industry analysts feel that demand for such devices from both consumer and enterprise verticals are growing up and sectors like insurance are using tablets for front-end customization. However the real move in the category is coming from Government adoption in sectors like e-Gov, education and social development etc.

And this is where I see the tablet actually making a difference to the tea stall owner in Uttarakhand. Today Govt agents are using tablets for real time data collection on demographics and uploading it to the cloud and dairy farms are using tablets for real time milk collections etc. With applications like these, we will see technology making a difference to the people. And this is where tablets make a real difference in bridging the digital divide between urban and rural India.

Education is also one sector, where tablets are changing the landscape of teaching mechanism.  Age old ‘pathsalas’ are now evolving with modern day use of tablets. Teachers and students across use it for ease of solving mathematics, reasoning and grammar. Today, there are several OEM’s who have stormed into the sector.  The Education ministry is driving the impetus to reform the age old structure of imparting education and ushering in the digital revolution at this grass root level. And it’s not just Akash tablets; there are several indigenously built tablet manufacturers who are aiming this space with a clear intent of growing businesses through simplifying teaching mechanism at lower costs and make learning easier for students with digital modules.

This is where tablets would bridge the urban rural divide — A device that is a mode of utility services, infotainment and entertainment to an urban user would be a device for development in rural India; much like its predecessor the ‘mobile phone’. However with innovation in app industry, apps such as nexGTv- a simple and easy to use Mobile TV, will usher the entertainment-on-tablets revolution across India and make tablets a mass product. Though on contrary, by the end of this year we will have the overall mobile handset market reaching to about 20 crores devices and smart phone to about 2 crores, the tablet market is estimated to be about 3 lakhs+. The number looks relatively small when compared to mobile or the smart phone market but this number will grow double digits and soon we will see content which is localized, apps which are custom built in vernacular languages and availability of devices at  affordable price range.

Tablets will be the next big thing in the technology industry and much like mobile phones it will impact urban and rural India alike. While apps around utility services, infotainment and entertainment will influence sales in urban markets; basic and easy to use apps in vernacular language will influence bulk buying by Government for E-Governance and education projects in rural India. The market will move from urban to tier II and III penetration in about 2-3 years with low cost tablets at the price of smart phones and aggressive marketing by indigenously developed tablets.

I conclude seeing a tablet revolution coming through in about 2-3 years, if not the tea stall owner using it but being aware of a device with ease of computing and  a world of apps; something similar to smart phones, what do you have to say?


Friday, 27 July 2012

Cricketing season is back; don’t miss out on the action

Dear Readers

After the craze of IPL, the action at Euro 2012 and the drama at the French Open and Wimbledon; cricketing action is back. While we cheer for our athletes, wrestlers, boxers, hockey team and badminton team for gold at London Olympics; TV eyeballs are glued to Indian cricket team’s tour of Sri-Lanka for the five one day match and one T20 match series. Let me share with you a very interesting statistics on the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 between India and SriLanka. The match was watched by almost two out of every three cable & satellite viewers in the country, making it one of the most-watched television events in India ever. India surely is a cricket crazy nation and certainly it is lot more than ‘Sports’.

Talking of ratings, I remember a time and it must be almost two decades back, when DD use to air ratings of its programmes. It was always mega soaps like Ramayana or Mahabharata that use to lead the ratings. Gone are the days when streets would be empty every Sunday mornings and people in groups would be glued to their TV sets. We have come a long way from there. We have seen the emergence of satellite television, and a distribution network of MSO’s across the country reaching out to consumers- the C&S homes to Direct to Home (DTH) operators. From the one national channel Doordarshan, we now have over 500 channels that are over-the-air with content that are digital and are a key source of entertainment for us. The advent of mobile telephony and the internet has changed our lifestyle remarkably and has set the stage for content to move beyond the installed TV sets to the mobile platform.

Audience consumption and viewership patterns are also equally interesting and it is truly ‘equality in diversity’. Soaps and mega serials, films, news, reality and live shows, religion and devotion, music and sports constitute major part of the content and are watched by multiple audiences. And sport in India is primarily CRICKET.  Dhoni, Sachin, Harbhajan are household names today. Since there is so much interest in cricket; we decided to take the live cricketing action on to the mobile platform and offer live telecast of the India-SriLanka series at one touch of an application. So if you have missed Kohli’s hundred in the first match, his fourth in last five innings and Viru’s run a ball for 96, we have it recorded for you. Catch it all on nexGTv.

We understand, July-August are critical months for businesses; so while internet savvy Indians will have a pop up window of live scores on their desktops, others would glue on to random TV sets in busy market areas and in street corners trying to catch a glimpse of cricketing action. Understanding very well that we are a cricket crazy nation; we at DigiVive decided to bring live cricket right into your palms. We have tied up with our content partner to offer not just live streaming of this series but also provide our users with match highlights and repeat telecasts.

And this is where nexGTv will be handy to customers vying to catch the cricketing action. We have tied with leading telecom operators and offering Mobile TV services at minimal charges. Our flagship nexGTV services are available as a downloadable app across a variety of platforms- iOS, Blackberry OS, Symbian and Android and consumers can now view the matches live on their phones as per their data plans. So if you do not want to miss out on the action, feel free to log on to and you download the app directly onto your phone or reach out to our 24*7 customer support- 1860 108 1010/ 1860 108 1008 for more information or help in case any needed.
Have fun and enjoy cricket season.

GD Singh

Monday, 16 July 2012

Let the blogging begin!

Dear Readers

Which is that one single device that’s with you 24*7; invariably it is the mobile phone! It is not just about being connected anymore, it’s much beyond. Mobile phone now is a world in itself which makes available music, images, videos, Apps, social media, e-commerce, news and much more, right in your palms. Flashback into a couple of decades and all these were unheard of. Indians relied on trunk calls, faxes, telegrams for communication and radio, audio cassette and television for entertainment. So what led to this digital revolution in the country?

The telecom industry over the last decade has transformed the way we communicate. Together along with the growth in IT and ITES sector, it has provided consumers in India a whole new digital experience. From high speed internet that has evolved at a rapid pace from the DSL days, to devices like smart phones and tablets that have brought the whole world today in our hands, technology is fast changing consumer lifestyle.

Spectrum auction- 2G & 3G; news that dominated the headlines for the last couple of years have laid the foundation for VAS (Value Added Service) players in the telecom industry to explore beyond voice- in areas of data transmission. As it is often said, if the last decade voice ruled the roost, this decade till 2020 it will be ‘data’. And data is beyond high speed internet but about applications, video and entertainment on multiple platforms.

Therefore as I often say and I in this case compare the telecom ecosystem with roads and highway network across the country. The big telecom operators with their spectrum purchases have created extensive highway network for us and presently these networks have very minimal vehicles running on them. So what is the RoI for them; their investment will break even with the money that they collect through the tolling mechanism with more vehicles plying on this network. And this vehicle movement is nothing but data transmission, video transmission on mobile and other internet transmitting devices. 

Furthermore, modern day lifestyle hardly provides consumers with the time to relax on the couch and enjoy TV- their daily soaps, news, films, sports and entertainment. However being on the move and in between meetings they have their break-free sessions with their mobile phones/ tablets as devices they work and play with. To reach out to this consumer who in the middle of busy schedule wants to enjoy what was missed last evening, we conceptualized DigiVive and nexGTv. With DigiVive (, we decided to kickstart a brand with a cliché-busting way of looking at our two most favorite things: Entertainment and Mobile Technology.

Today, we are just about a year old. We have been listening and learning from the industry, we have been strengthening our infrastructure and at the same time engaging with consumers across the country. We have been traveling length and breadth and it is indeed a pleasure that nexGTv app has been downloaded by 3 million users in just about a year with close to 20,000 downloads a day. There is so much happening and I wanted to share with you all- the experiences, the challenges, the learning, the invention and how we can provide the best entertainment experiences on mobile to our customers. And therefore, we have gathered up the courage and donned our Zuckerberg sweatshirts to set up our very own official social media powered thought playground: The DigiVive Blog- which on request of employees and peers, we are terming as GD’s BLOG! And it’s an honor to give a very warm first welcome to you all!

For those who know me and who don’t know me well, allow me to introduce myself. G.D Singh here: film-fan, tech-geek, and when on duty- Director of DigiVive.

For a long while now it’s been an objective of mine to figure out how we can showcase a more real and personal side to what we do in the Mobile TV world to a wider audience. Data VAS, Infotainment and MVAS– or ‘entertainment on the move’ as I like to call it, is reaching more and more Indians by-the-day as the mobile sector continues to enjoy massive growth. With more people becoming connected through both hardware and improving wireless technology, it’s my view that information and entertainment direct-to-mobile will be a massive driver for the health, well-being and financial prosperity of this great country for the coming years and hence all the more reason to open doors that educate, evangelize and generally cheer on this exciting industry.

From here on in you’ll be able to get the inside-track on everything related to the exciting world of Mobile TV through the lens of nexGTv. From the latest services and special offers, to personal on-ground reports from key events such as the Mobile World Congress all the way through to the people, technology, trends and content that are powering the entertainment at your fingertips

What’s more, we can’t wait for this space to bring us closer with those of you at the enjoyment end of the spectrum; our subscribers, content fans, mobile industry watchers and those interested from all walks of life.

For this reason we wanted to kickstart the blog by taking the opportunity to remind readers that this blog is NOT another excuse for me to talk but also a key opportunity to connect. And to this end we have provided a comments section. It would be great to hear back from those of you in the mobile universe around how we can improve the blog, suggested topics and any other insights around how we can improve our service and keep on delivering to people more of what they want.

We know we’ve had a great thumbs up from you guys with over 3 million downloads across app stores within the last one year of nextGTv’s launch which is amazing. So this is really a chance to give back and listen to you guys on what makes your world better…on the move.  

So without further ado… Let’s mobilize and make this blog a better place!!!