By Shweta Dandekar:
Do you ever wonder how our parents or grandparents survived without cell phones? What if you had to know where someone was and if they were alright? If you had a few doubts regarding an assignment to be submitted tomorrow, how would you contact your friends or your teacher? Most of them resorted to using a pay phone, because they didn’t own a land line. Time was perhaps slower then and people more self-sufficient.
Not more than a decade back, cellular phones were a luxury item — available only to the elite class. Today, a child in the 8th standard, a farmer, a businessman, a common labourer and an IT professional have one thing in common — they all own a cell phone. Today, more than 750 million mobile subscribers are present in India, making the country the fastest growing wireless market. Starting only with the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), room was made in the industry for the likes of Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Tata Docomo, etc.
The privatization of telecommunications in the country brought about an immense change, getting us one step closer to rising from the “developing country” status. The monopoly of the government-led BSNL and MTNL did not match to the rising demands of public. Within the industry itself, there were people with difference of opinion about how telecommunication can be used. These factions within the industry led to the government’s decision of awarding licenses to various companies in the form of New Telecom Policy (NTP) in 1999. From a monopoly, the market was thrown open to various service providers which led to increase in competition. It is due to this reason that each person can afford to make calls for a sufficient time period in the country. The low tariff has made the services available to everyone today.
The impact of privatization of the telecommunication on people is quite interesting. It has led to more contact with family and friends and has reduced cost of travel according to a research conducted by Pacific Institute of Public Policy. The same report found out that telephone users find the use of telecommunication critical for economic activity and would find it difficult to continue if they no longer had access to the same. Phones have now become our source for social information, emergencies, education and news and are slowly replacing and becoming more prominent than face-to-face communication in private spheres.
The competition in this industry has led to new technologies in various other industries, such as cell phone manufacturers, internet service providers, etc. The telecommunication sector has successfully merged all forms of media. The advent of 3G phones and number portability in India has only opened up new dimensions that will be explored by the industry.