It is sometimes said that the mobile phone has done to India what the automobile did to the US, changing societies and lives for the better.
India’s astonishing telecom revolution in the first decade of this century is now looking tired. A lot now depends on whether 3G telecom services can expand into our daily lives with the same sort of ubiquity.
Immense possibilities of further social transformation could lie in the years ahead. If 2G allowed Kerala fishermen to access information that helped them sell their catch in the market at the highest prices, 3G could be about a primary rural health centre linking to a metropolitan hospital so that a poor farm worker could get medical advice from the best doctors. Or think of the innovations now possible in areas such as retail finance, entertainment and even governance.
The question, then, is whether telcos can make 3G services available to ordinary Indians. Going by what has happened in the past 10 years, a lot will depend on new business models, cheap handsets and among the lowest call rates in the world.