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Not for a lack of trying, it has been hard to get away from India in recent posts. It is very hard to ignore a country that  added over 51 million new mobile phone subscribers quarter ending on June 30.

Previous posts have delved into the state of e-commerce and upcoming 3G roll-outs across the country. These developments on their own are quite impressive. Even more impressive are the tie-ups that allow for the innovative delivery of services through this new platform.

One such example is the recent announcement of a joint venture between Aircel, a telecom, and the Apollo Hospitals, world renown for their delivery of low-cost healthcare. Through the ‘Aircel Apollo Mobile HealthCare’ service, users can get medical consultation over video phone for Rs 45 (approx US $1).

A crucial stumbling block to these possibilities remains the high-price for 3G smart-phones. To address this, Google is helping Indian handset manufacturers build smartphones that run Android for the sub-$100 market:

emerging [Indian] vendors represented more than one-third of total Indian phone shipments in the three months ending June 2010, up from less than 1% of shipments about two years earlier. Nokia dipped from 56.2% market share to 36.3% over roughly the same period.

In under two years, Indian phone manufacturers have made dramatic gains. Micromax offers 34 models of phones priced under USD 30, a price at which Indian users enjoy features such as cameras and basic data. Such developments highlight how how Indian phone makers have managed to take valuable market share from larger players like Nokia.

Beginning this Diwali, Indian phone makers will be rolling out sub-$150 Android-based smart phones

Another manufacturer, Spice Mobile already has released a $220 Android smart phone. When contacted for the Wall Street Journal article,  Motorola, Spice Mobile, HTC, and Samsung were unwilling to comment on their plans for low-cost Android devices. Undoubtedly, the sub-$100 smart phone is central to all manufacturers keeping their foothold in the Indian marketplace.

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From Antigua, an example of a telcom leading an initiative to increase Internet usage amongst students. Digicel, in partnership with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, announced details of a new initiative which will deliver broadband internet service for free to communities and schools across the twin-island nation.

A Blueprint for the “Technology for Communication, Education and Empowerment” initiative which will provide free broadband connectivity via WiFi access to 3,000 homes and 5,000 secondary school children is provided:

... to provide community computer access centres in 12 secondary schools, which will include the physical infrastructure as well as the furniture and air-conditioning.  Each of these community access centres will accommodate at least 20 students.

Minister of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications, Science and Technology Dr Edmond Mansoor said that, “in building a truly Intelligent Nation, the Government is working towards ensuring that every home and every office is equipped with a personal computer and high-speed Internet.”

In our part of the world, such initiatives will play a crucial role in exposing the large segments of the community to using broadband Internet. Such an initiative is invited and welcomed here in the Pacific. We hope to see Digicel embark on such an initiative in the near future.

From New Zealand, there’s news of a major new cable project getting underway. Pacific Fibre, has announced an alliance with Australia’s Pacnet to build a $US400 million undersea cable between Australia, New Zealand and the US. The project might just be an opportunity for those Island nations who do not sign onto the SPIN cable project to land a submarine cable.

Meanwhile, in Fiji there are unconfirmed whispers that Telecom Fiji Limited has signed a memorandum of understanding with SPIN Cable to land the submarine cable in Fiji. I will attempt to get confirmation of this news from the CEO of SPIN.

This is promising news. Competition to the Southern Cross Cable Network is much needed. However, without a muscular regulatory framework, consumers are unlikely to see much by way of cheaper and more innovative services.

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