It started the moment I landed and turned on my phone. The fight for registering my phone that is. Last week, I was in Delhi, India for VAS Asia
. I gave a talk about utilizing 3G networks to create Video Value Added Service Applications. The companies in India recently committed $14.6B for the right to utilize 3G networks in India. Monetization will occur via data services, via utilizing 3G for "premium" voice, and through innovative value-added services such as video VAS. So my talk about enabling video value-added services on the 3G networks was hopefully timely. I saw an ad for instance on my way form the airport touting mobile banking - likely now via utilizing text on your phone. But utilizing a video IVR to do mobile banking would be an improvement. To me, that's the kind of video VAS that will come first to India - video enabling some existing voice or text application that's already in the Indian market.
As I said above though, what caught my eye the moment I landed was the fight for my phone. When I landed, I was not able to use the phone, even though I noticed people around me were able to. I went into the Network Connections part of my phone and noticed it was talking to the MTNL network, but I guess it was not able to register properly and authenticate with AT&T, so I couldn't make any calls or SMS's. Once I got inside the terminal, the phone moved to the Reliance network so while I was in the immigration line I was able to check emails.
I was also "privileged" to be in the first Monsoon Jam as they called it, a massive traffic jam caused in part by a monsoon rain that ended right before I landed. Sure it ended, but the water was still everywhere! So it took me a long, long time to get to my hotel. And that is where the fight really raged between Reliance and Airtel for my phone. It was flip-flopping all over the place. And quite often I went from EDGE to GSM, which screwed up the ability to do data properly. Finally the phone settled on Airtel and that was that.
Until the morning. Soon after I woke up, I noticed my hotel lost power. It must have been at least for 5 minutes. Since I was in the middle of doing emails, and I couldn't do that anymore since the Internet went down too, I switched to using my mobile phone. Nope. See, the mobile network connection was down. I guess the power was out in the city sector, which meant no power to the cell tower I was talking to. While I was calculating how long it would take my hotel room to get to the outside temperature (not a welcome though), the power came back on. And soon after my phone registered again. And the fight ensued again, except this time with Vodaphone in the fray! Once again, Airtel ultimately won out.
My thoughts about all this? Well, there must be quite a bit of traffic to cause the shift from EDGE to GSM. Seemingly everyone here is walking around with a cell phone. So with the coming 3G networks, I can definitely see some kind of "premium voice" option for those willing to pay more for a more stable connection. And I doubt the next time I return there will be any less fierce a fight for my mobile phone.