Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Constraint In Video Telephony and High Usage of Data and Mobile Internet

A limitation in the number of 3G-enabled handsets with forward facing cameras, privacy issues and a limited bandwidth that might hinder user experience may limit the usage of video telephony as telecom companies in India progressively roll out their 3G networks and services.

Globally, the introduction of 3G services in a country has seen subscriber usage patterns tilt towards accessing the internet, either for downloads or browsing and telecom industry officials as well as analysts say the pattern is likely to be repeated in India as 3G services cover more geographies in the country. Tata Teleservices (TTSL), Reliance Communications (RCom), Bharti Airtel and Aircel have already launched their 3G services while Vodafone Essar is currently conducting subscriber trials in Delhi and Chennai and Idea Cellular is expected to announce its 3G launch later this month.

“Initial indications are that data usage will shoot up. Besides, video telephony is very device dependent,” said chief corporate affairs officer for Idea Cellular, Rajat Mukarji. While agreeing that some voice traffic from existing 2G networks will be offloaded by telcos on their 3G bandwidth, he added that may not be a hindrance in user experience for video telephony despite the 5 MHz bandwidth of 3G spectrum. “The offloading will primarily be for customers who opt for 3G networks,” he said.

Data from Indian Cellular Association (ICA) reveals that smart phone sales in the present financial year will number 10-11 million units and for 2011-12, the figure could touch 40 million. “In three to four years, there is going to be a huge acceleration in smart phone sales in India, with annual sales in excess of 50 million handsets,” said ICA’s president, Pankaj Mohindroo.

According to him, internet will be the ‘killer’ application and not video telephony, and there might not be much impact on sales of handset manufacturers that do not offer video calling feature on their devices.

That, in effect, could be a saving grace for Research In Motion (RIM) that manufactures and sells its handsets under the BlackBerry range, which enable other 3G services such as data downloads and mobile internet access but are bereft of the crucial forward facing camera feature that is necessary for enabling video calls.

“As of now, BlackBerry handsets do not come with forward facing camera. I don’t think there is an application that can build on that feature in to BlackBerry smartphone,” said a spokesperson for RIM India, who declined to divulge if the company was planning to incorporate the feature in any future models.

Moreover, as Director of Com First, Mahesh Uppal, points out, usage of video telephony might be restricted among family and close friends due to privacy issues.

“A subscriber on a call with a professional or social acquaintance may not want to share the details of his location, through a video call. That can limit its appeal,” he said.

Low broadband penetration in India is also cited as a reason why mobile internet may pick up faster than mobile video telephony.source

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