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Apple India iPad

No iPad for India – Yet

TechCrunch and Mashable are reporting that Apple has announced dates and countries for the international launch of the iPad in May and July but, apparently, there’s no mention of the iPad being launched in India in May or in July.

Once again, India appears to be an after thought for new Apple product launches…
Update: The iPad was launched about 6 months ago and there’s still no announcement on the iPad’s availability in India. Meanwhile, a few friends and relatives continue to ask me to send iPads with anyone traveling to India.

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Airtel Apple iPhone

The iPhone 3G[S] GPRS on Airtel India

I picked up my factory unlocked iPhone 3G[S] on a trip to Malaysia in September. To my pleasant surprise, Internet tethering, and MMS were already active and working quite well in Malaysia.

Upon arriving in India and popping my Airtel SIM into the phone, the phone worked fine but no data was working. Since the 3G[S] isn’t officially supported on Airtel or any Indian carrier, I could not set the EDGE network settings. Apple removed the ability to change network settings in a previous firmware upgrade. If you jailbreak your phone, I believe there is a way to re-enable the EDGE settings easily. However, if you’re not jailbreaking your iPhone, it’s a little more complicated. I tried to download and install a profile for Airtel that’s usually used for enabling tethering and MMS but that didn’t work.

I then deleted the profile from the phone and rebooted it. Upon reboot, it was working perfectly. I also had to make sure that 3G was turned off. I can’t be sure what finally made it work but I have a feeling it was turning 3G off in the Network settings. Try that first and if you still have trouble, then try using the profile.

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Airtel Apple Delhi India iPhone Vodafone

Will India Leapfrog the Apple iPhone 3G[S]?

I am writing (most of) this post on my iPhone 3G[S] using Airtel in New Delhi. The 3G[S] is not available in India yet and there is no information publicly available about a pending release or pricing.

I suspect, that Apple is terribly disappointed with iPhone 3G sales through its Indian partners, Airtel and Vodafone. On the flipside, Apple provides no support for the iPhones they sell in India. The only support available is through the carriers, who, from experience and from what others have said, can’t even properly activate an iPhone. Apple really can’t blame them.

In India, why has Apple abandoned their philosophy of controlling every aspect of their customers’ experience with their products? The 3G sells through official channels for anywhere between Rs. 30k and Rs. 35k. It’s not cheap by any standard. Blackberry, on the other hand is selling all their models in India like hotcakes. A few people I have met who bought iPhones through official channels in India have exhibited an incredible amount of frustration at the device and the (lack of) support behind it. One person said it took Vodafone almost a month to get data working on his iPhone and they had no answer for his dropped calls. Not exactly another notch in Apple’s customer service utility belt.

Those in India who bought the phone through unofficial or grey market channels have paid a premium for the device. They face extreme frustration when dealing with the carriers and they knew they would get no support from Apple (unless they were lied to by the vendor and told that they would get support from Apple – yes, vendors in India do lie). For the moment, Apple has lost the Indian high-end mobile phone market to Blackberry and Nokia. Until the carriers offer better service, true unlimited data plans, and better speeds, only gadget freaks like me and those trying to be seen with the sexiest phone on the market will be paying the massive premiums for an iPhone in India. Currently, an unlocked (not sure if it’s factory or hacktivated) iPhone 3G[S] sells for anything between Rs. 45,000 (USD 980) and Rs. 55,000 (USD 1,200) in places like Khan Market in New Delhi.

My bet is that India will see an iPhone 3G[S] sometime in the late Spring at which point, Apple will be getting ready to roll out the next version of the iPhone just a few months later in the US and other countries. Come on Apple, haven’t you figured out that Indians will gladly pay a premium for great hardware. It’s the software they will never pay for.

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Airtel India Internet Technology Telecom

Broadband in India is Far from a Reality

Being involved in Startup Saturday Delhi, I have come across a lot of entrepreneurs building Internet applications. Most of them being India centric. The problem, which has been discussed and reported numerous times is that broadband penetration is a miniscule 3% of the whole population. There are roughly 3 million broadband subscribers in India.

Airtel 8Mbps with 4GB Cap
Airtel 8Mbps with 4GB Cap

India being a highly price conscious country, I find it amazing that telcos like Airtel are busy hiking the price of metered “broadband” while degrading service levels. The latest move by Airtel has been to increase the price of their “unlimited” 512k connection to Rs. 1,599 (USD 34) per month. The real kicker is that the speed degraded to 256k after you’ve hit downloads totaling 100GB.

Airtel 512k with 100GB Cap
Airtel 512k with 100GB Cap

At the same time, they are introducing 16Mbps connections for Rs. 2,999 (USD 64) per month that have download caps of 20GB. A single Linux distro download is 4GB. A point upgrade to OS X is generally around 500MB. Buying and downloading a few shows from iTunes or watching a few videos on YouTube and I’ll blow right thru my 20GB limit in a week. If I download roughly 40GB of data in a given month, my Internet access will cost me upwards of Rs. 12,000 (USD 255) per month.

Airtel 16Mbps with 20GB cap
Airtel 16Mbps with 20GB cap

If indian telcos like Airtel were to offer unlimited 1Mbps connections at Rs. 999 (USD 21) and unlimited 2Mbps at Rs. 1,599 (USD 34), the willingness of Indians to spend on Internet access would be much more palatable. Other than those whose careers in some way, shape, or form are connected to the Internet, very few people are willing to spend more than Rs. 999 per month on Internet access. Those that spend Rs. 999 or less per month, get an experience that basically sucks. They are frustrated and completely turned off by the fact that it takes 20 minutes to load a 3 minute video on YouTube.

India will never be a country of mass Internet adoption while the government agencies like TRAI and DoT don’t adopt a definition of broadband that is more inline with shifts in Internet usage. Indian telcos continue to provide subpar speeds at exorbitant prices when compares to the rest of the world. India, touting itself, as the technology center of the 21st Century, must adopt an infrastructure and a coherent policy around broadband deployment and usage. Only with the government mandating the need for widespread Internet adoption, at feasible price points, will there be widespread broadband adoption by non-techies.

However, relying on the government to be so forward thinking is a pipe-dream. What the Indian telcos should do is adopt a model that was instrumental in driving mobile usage in India. Drop the price points so that even the average person (living on Rs. 100 per day), would find Internet usage compelling, useful, and not frustrating. If they were to adopt a mass usage policy and not price their broadband products based on margins, I believe that in 5 years, India could have at least 100 million broadband users (via DSL, cable modem, Mobile 3G, wiMax, etc.) Is it too much to ask the Indian telcos like Airtel, MTNL, BSNL, Tata Communications, Reliance, etc. to push the envelope of adoption? Unfortunately, I think it might be.

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Business Delhi India New Delhi Technology

Calling all Startups!

Startup Saturday Delhi is just around the corner. We’re holding our next event on the 14th of March at the American Center from 2pm to 6pm. The goal of Startup Saturday is to give startups a place where they can showcase their products and their businesses. Our goal is to also allow entrepreneurs and those considering a life as entrepreneurs to share information, learn from each other, and be a part of building the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India.

If you’re a startup or know of any Indian startups that would like to publicize their products/services, please fill out the Demo Nomination form so we can get you on the Startup Saturday Delhi agenda.

Looking forward to seeing you at Startup Saturday Delhi!

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