Mobile phones are everywhere today. It was not so, some ten years ago.
The mobile phone industry in India started hitting the right button only in the late 90′s. Before that, it was the dial by phones (land phones). Much before that, it was the trunk dialling wherein you call up the operator, request for a call to be placed, then wait until the call connects and then speak. It was expensive and it was with frequent disconnections. It was used only to inform very very important information.
When I was doing my schooling, the wired phone market was a big thing. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) was the sole provider of telephones then. I still remember the day when we got a phone connection to our house. It took two months to arrive after registration. There was excitement. I was in my summer holidays and suddenly one fine morning, two technicians came home. They had brought with them a phone like this.
They connected the phone and went off, after taking a service charge of around 20 rupees. My Dad came out with an instruction – “The phone has to be used only for essential communication and not to chat with relatives/friends.” We all (Mom, me and sister) nodded. After an hour, I found Dad talking to someone in the phone and exclaiming the advent of technology. Essential communication example was set by the leader.
Next thing was – I had a phone and I had to boast to my friends. The problem was that none of my friends had a telephone at their home and even if they had, I was not even aware of its existence. There was no Facebook to inform others via a status. It was a very catch-22 situation. To call, you had to have the number. To have the number, you had to call and find out or wait until the summer holidays were over. How difficult. But then, life moved on.
After few years, my dad bought a Pager. It was one of the stupidest devices I have ever come across. We had to call up the pager company and tell them the message and the paging company will send a short message to the pager. Very similar to voice messages of the present time but the biggest use of the Pager was to ask Dad to buy vegetables on the way home. I still have his pager with me, just for a vintage value.
Later cell phone came. The first one was like a brick. My Dad did not buy a cell phone immediately because of his bad experience with the Pager. My Uncle had bought a huge cell phone which was of such a size that I thought it was communicating with the satellite directly. Later, Dad bought one and was using it sparingly. By then, the landline charges had come down and I had also got the numbers from friends and “essential communications” were being shared.
It was not until college, I owned a cell phone myself. I was in my third year (2002) of dentistry when I had this problem. My girlfriends were on leave for 1 month, but I wasn’t having any holiday. They went home, I did not have a landline in my dorm and mobile phone was very much needed. Necessity is the mother of all inventions. So I invented ways to buy a mobile phone. One of my friends (quite a rich guy), had an Ericsson mobile phone.
The phone wasn’t cheap. He demanded 4K for it. I bargained down for 2K. The problem was not the initial investment. It was the recurring cost. The incoming calls were charged at INR 4 and outgoing calls were charged at INR 6 for each minute of usage. I was bankrupt in 1 month.
Slowly the prices started to come down. At one stage, the incoming was free and outgoing was at INR 1. It was then, the mobile market started to flourish in India. I ditched the good old Ericsson phone and moved to a Samsung C100.
On one fine day, I lost the Samsung C100. It again became a struggle to buy a phone. After that, I moved across various manufacturers and models – Reliance Nokia, Motorola C350, Sony Ericsson K750i, Nokia 5310, Samsung Corby, Nokia E63, and most recently, Samsung Galaxy Y. But the company I work for, does not allow camera mobiles to be brought inside my working area, so I have a blackberry phone without camera, a very primitive blackberry model, at present. Without me telling ya, you all know – it sucks!
When I see my friends boasting extreme connectivity with newer models and lovely features with android and iOS, I have a tinge of jealousy arising inside me, but the company pay check silences it. I am thinking of newer territories to exploit and if those work out, then my company-imposed camera phone ban will vanish. I can then own a good phone with which I can shoot pictures, share it, blog, and connect.
Getting back to the bills, the telecom industry in India has reaped millions and millions of money due to telecom auctions. Despite bribes in million’s, we still have to pay a maximum of 0.5 INR for an outgoing call and none for an incoming call. The internet has taken over the mobile phones too and I pay 950 bucks for 6 GB of 3G data. Now with the introduction of 4G, the 3G plans have come down. I should review and alter my 3G plan on October 01st. Hope that goes well.