As the final question to the closing plenary at Globalcomm India 2006, which I’ve described here, Ambassador Gross asked each panelist: “If you could change just one thing in order to better promote ICT in rural India, what would that one thing be?”
I may have cheated on the “one thing” but my answer was: Take a wide swath of 450 MHz spectrum and sell it off in multiple chucks of at least 10 MHz each, under special license terms for rural areas, to anyone who is interested — the special license terms to include:
- No telecom taxes for at least 15 years — after all the government is trying to promote rural communications.
- No restrictions on foreign investment — welcome anyone who wants to invest in rural India.
- No restriction on the technology employed — GSM, CDMA, OFDM, WiMAX, proprietary or something that hasn’t been invented yet. Let operators mix and match in any way that makes sense for them and let them evolve what they are doing as technology and circumstances evolve.
I tried to say all that off-the-cuff. From comments afterward, it appears I got some of the ideas across but I’m sure I didn’t get the detail across. I was speaking without the benefit of notes or preparation.
And even now my proposal may not be complete. It might be good to include some microwave back-haul spectrum with each license. Also I should be clear that you want to sell off at least 3 blocks of spectrum in each license area (more if possible), as competition is the best way to increase teledensity. This has been proven by comparing teledensity gains across the 100+ mobile markets around the world. Get those foreign investors to compete for first mover advantage with a population that currently is dreadfully poor but who, with the advent of telecom, will become richer and richer.
I very much enjoyed my six days in India and, with our growing business in India and our purchase of Openera Technologies, I’m sure I will be spending a lot more time in India. And, whether it’s India or other developing economies, I’m sure I will have occasion to address this subject in the future. So if you have comments, I’d appreciate hearing from you in the comments area below or via email.