9 million 3G connections in India, no kidding

3G did not quite take of as it should have. At least that was the general observation. I can agree with that assumption because, despite holding a 3G phone I never ventured into 3G services. I did make an attempt with BSNL but it did not quite materialize. But the numbers which are just out are painting a different picture. An entirely different picture. There are 9 million 3G connections in the country. This number is dangerously close to the 11 million broadband connections the country has.

This is the most astonishing piece of news since the news of 3G auction completion.

Bharti Airtel is leading the pack with 3 million or 33% of the total connections. DoCoMo has 1.5 million users. Idea, Vodafone and BSNL have 1 million each. Reliance should have a million too. What’s surprising is Tata’s DoCoMo occupying the second spot in 3G connections. This doesn’t necessarily mean a better service. Much of it can be attributed to its innovative marketing. Though the most profound marketing and advertising was done by Idea Cellular. Airtel doing well with its esoteric ads befuddles me.

A figure of 9 million is reached despite problems like dropped calls, poor speeds and erratic connectivity. And these problems are being dubbed as teething problems. Not just that. The 3G data plan costs are astronomical. Rs. 15 (US$0.33) is being charged for every megabyte of data. The reason voice rates dropped to pennies is because of the competition. With 3G, and with just four operators, something radical has to happen to for the prices to go down and become ‘affordable’.

I really hope there aren’t any ghost/phantom connections in the 9 million. On a second thought, I think there will be ghost connections. A few months back, I took a 3G connection and tried to activate it but couldn’t for technical reasons which I would blame the operator. The SIM never got activated even after dumping some dough in it. I am sure I am counted in that 9 million. We might never know the active connections but 9 million sounds cool.

I want to go out on a tangent by saying that 3G should help the connectivity and penetration but it really will not help. Not the way it is structured right now. The 9 million subscribers, if there are so many,  are just the cream. 3G on their mobile or iPad is just one more way to connect and not THE ONLY way to connect.

The way it is structured, priced and marketed – 3G is luxury right now.

But don’t you think finding Kantilal Godbole from Kishenganj is cool? Yeah it is just that. Cool. Finding Kantilal and kissing his wife on the cheek is really a luxury. Don’t you think?