Experts point out that the technology that arrived in India less than 18 months ago needs more time for network to mature so that customers can truly enjoy the services

Last year, this time, Rakesh Pradhan was ecstatic with visions of sitting at his office in Madhapur and utilising 3G services like interactive gaming, mobile TV, video calling and internet browsing at high speeds with his newly acquired high-end smart-phone. One year down the line, Mr. Pradhan's 3G dream has evaporated. “I have cancelled my 3G subscription because I found no difference between 2G and 3G at my workplace in Guttala Begumpet, Madhapur. Whenever I use 3G, my voice calls break down, sometimes I don't get voice signal and the 3G coverage is inconsistent. There is no logic in paying Rs. 800 every month for a service which is clearly not worth it,” he says.

This is the sad state-of-affairs of scores of 3G subscribers in the capital who jumped into the 3G bandwagon that claimed to revolutionise mobile internet experience. There are scores of pockets in the capital that are yet to get 3G connectivity, leave alone normal voice signals.

Unfulfilled promises

Many 3G users say that telecom operators have not fulfilled promises made in advertisements about the blazing fast internet speeds. Customers point out that they are willing to pay-up more for 3G data if the service is up to the mark.

Technology analysts point out that dismal 3G speeds, expensive pricing, impact of 3G on other mobile activities like frequent call dropping, limited battery support of smart-phone, failure to plug the ‘dark spots' where signal quality is poor have played a major role in customer dissatisfaction.

‘No infrastructure'

“To provide good 3G speeds, an operator needs to have a strong infrastructure, which is what telecom operators don't have. Most of the operators cram in more customers than ideal so more users share the same amount of bandwidth. That's why each user gets lesser speed. The operators do this because they need to recover the high costs they have paid to buy the 3G spectrum,” explains Arun Prabhudesai, technology blogger who started the well-known ‘trak.in'. Experts also point out that 3G technology arrived in India less than 18 months ago and needs more time for the network to mature, to run smoothly so that customers can truly enjoy the services. “There is a definite sense of dissatisfaction among 3G users across the country. The spectrum is little and adequate investment in infrastructure is yet to be taken up by telecom operators. It will take at least one year or even more for the entire 3G ecosystem to stabilise in our country,” says national president for Indian Cellular Association (ICA), Pankaj Mohindroo.

Technology writers maintain that 3G infrastructure has been placed only at metros and in other popular areas in cities.

“This is another factor why users are unhappy with 3G services as their circle might not offer the best experience. Operators are to be partially blamed. They advertise high speed internet with which one can watch videos and download songs fast. And when the users actually try to do it, it is painfully slow despite paying a premium,” says technology analyst and editor of forearena.com, Varun Krishnan.

An Airtel spokesperson, however, points out that any new technology takes time to establish itself. “This is seen world over. Any new technology takes time to establish and this is applicable to 3G as well. As the market gradually strengthens, 3G handset penetration develops along with depth and availability of 3G content, the outlook for further adoption of 3G services in the next four to five years is positive.”

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