Too little, too late
Sir — Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee might now be in favour of introducing English from Class I, but what about the generations of students who have been the victims of the earlier decision (“English set for full return”, Dec 31)' The decision to withdraw English from the primary level devastated an entire school education system known for its excellence, by diverting good teachers and students to English medium, mainly missionary, schools. What will happen now to all those students who lost out on good jobs because they didn’t know English' Which raises the question — where was Bhattacharjee, who now gives himself such progressive airs, at that time' If he felt English was not necessary, why did he not raise his voice at that time' Or, if he was too low down the political ladder then, what about later, when he was second man in the state government' Are the destinies of the masses then to be held at ransom by the whims and fancies of policy-makers'
Rajesh Dutta, Calcutta
Sir — Reliance Infocomm’s imminent launch of its limited mobility service has finally generated the war that every consumer had been looking forward to — a cellular war. All major players in Indian cellular telephony have announced steep reductions in cellular-to-cellular STD rates. Apparently, more sops are in store. Pramod Mahajan has already announced similar reductions are in the offing from Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Limited and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited.
While all users will welcome the money saved, all this brings into question the intentions of cell phone service providers, private as well as the state-owned ones. If they can reduce the rates now to combat the Reliance threat, why couldn’t they have done it before' If they had done so earlier, it could have led to a considerable rise in the number of users. The motto so far, sadly, has been to extract the maximum possible from a limited number of users, rather than breaking even and maximizing profits through a wider spread.
While we keep talking about cellular telephony, we tend to forget that the percentage of cell phone users in India is miniscule. In order to really take communication to greater heights, the government should give a thought to reducing internet access charges. While the internet packages available today are not very expensive, the telephone charges users run up in the process are steep and prove to be a deterrent. Thus, in spite of India producing some of the best brains in information technology, our internet usage remains one of the lowest in the world, and the computer density continues to languish behind that of most countries.
Anirban Sarkar, Calcutta
Sir — In the context of Reliance Inforcomm’s recent rollout of its Code Division Multiple Access project, I would like to share some interesting facts about high-speed mobile internet connectivity in India.
As far as “mobile broadband” in India (more than 64 kilobytes per second) is concerned, the government has not licensed any spectrum to Global System for Mobile or GSM vendors for high-speed “2.5G/3G” use. But, CDMA providers need no special license — they use the same spectrum for voice and data, like a normal phone line. GSM providers cannot provide this primarily because the Time Division Multiple Access system they use is less efficient. Hence, implementing high speed “3G” services on GSM will require some form of CDMA or the other. GSM providers use W-CDMA technology which requires new equipment and new handsets — expensive for the operator and the customer.
In Europe, a lot of problems developed during such 3G deployments by GSM providers, mostly in ensuring that phones work across networks. In Japan, DoCoMo successfully rolled out W-CDMA, after recalling handsets from customers twice. Recognizing the cost and problems, the Cellular Operators Association of India advised members in 2001 to hold off 3G deployments, and focus on 2.5G instead, until a clearer picture emerged.
CDMA 2000, on the other hand, has a better track record in high-speed services, with smooth rollouts in Japan, South Korea and the United States of America. Incidentally, Japan is full of happy cell-phone-camera users.
In short, unless GSM providers make large investments, the future of high-speed data access belongs to CDMA 2000. To sustain the bandwidth demands of mobile users, it is necessary to lay optic fibre cables — something Reliance has done. The technology Reliance has started out with — CDMA 2000 1X supports 144 kbps (a little better than 2.5G) — and can be augmented to CDMA 2000 1X EV-DO (equivalent to 3G) at a little additional cost.
The coming months will be interesting for the technology-minded in India, although (as usual) we have only one effective provider to turn to — Tata Indicom not showing any interest in mobile broadband so far.
Prasenjeet Dutta, Jamshedpur
Sir — Prices of commodities with government-administered prices, for instance petroleum products, should be in round figures and uniform throughout the country. It is not fair to have huge price difference of upto 15-20 per cent in these products in different cities. In Delhi, petrol is priced at Rs 29.93 and in Mumbai at Rs 34.73 per litre. The solution is to adjust the local taxes and levies for such essential commodities.
Madhu Agrawal, Delhi