November 24, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether D2M technology will be a boon for India. We also look at the NIA raids in Bihar, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Will D2M technology be a boon for India?
A common sight on public transport is people watching something on their phones – something on YouTube, the news, or a live sports event. It’s the wonders of modern telecom technology. We’ve even got 5G now rolling out across India. It has become easier than ever to consume content on the go.
While that’s true, you still need a cellular network with good coverage. But what if you could still access all the content you want without one? That’s Direct-to-Mobile (D2M). It’s what the Indian government sees as the next step. It would be a boon for everyone to access the content they want whenever and wherever. However, not everyone is pleased about this proposal.
One of the biggest successes in post-liberalisation India has been the telecom industry. While not perfect, to a large extent, it has resulted in a mobile phone in almost everyone’s hands, cutting across class, caste, age, and gender. Then came mobile connectivity. It has reached nearly every nook and cranny of the country. All of this is thanks to thousands of crores worth of investment and successive government policies.
According to some estimates, India is poised to become the world’s third-largest economy by the decade’s end. All thanks to a burgeoning consumer class and increased digitisation. This is also propelling the country to be the fastest-growing smartphone market in the world in the next decade.
This doesn’t mean it was smooth sailing to get here. Investors had long-held expectations of growth opportunities for smartphone usage in India. However, market penetration remained stagnant at 40% compared to the 60% global average. Most of that 40% was for cheaper, lower-end devices.
We’ve also got to talk about broadband services. Last October, the telecom regulator estimated 790 million wireless broadband subscribers, including people who accessed the internet on their mobile phones. Between 2016 and 2020, mobile internet subscriber growth was in the double digits. That growth stagnated. So did smartphone sales to some extent. You could attribute some of this to the pandemic, with rising prices to increased manufacturing costs.
However, with a projected fivefold increase in high-income households by 2031, combined with rapid urbanisation and infrastructure improvements, things will change.
This is good news if you’re a streaming service like Netflix, Disney+, or Prime Video. These companies own content and want as many people as possible to access it. The days of broadcasters, distribution partnerships with local cable operators and carriage fees are all but over. Then came the direct-to-home (DTH) model, where these partnerships were more formal.
Then came the streamers. Beginning in about 2018, they rode the wave of India’s smartphone boom and expanding telecom infrastructure. Telecom operators even had “content bundles” to woo consumers. This resulted in two things – increased mobile data consumption and a change in viewing habits.
All this meant you needed excellent telecom service if you didn’t want the content you were watching to buffer every few seconds. So, what’s the next big step? For the government, it’s D2M. Users can watch and download multimedia content on their phones without an active internet connection. The Department of Technology (DoT) is studying the feasibility of a spectrum band to offer broadcast services directly to one’s phone. Prasar Bharati announced a partnership with IIT Kanpur to test D2M technology.
VIEW: The next revolution
It’s all about removing the barriers to accessing content anytime and anywhere. From the government’s point of view, with D2M, they’ve got a citizen-centric model where information can be sent to them directly, including those who don’t have an internet connection. The government’s vision is a convergence of content delivery through broadcast and broadband platforms. It’s in line with the rollout of 5G throughout India.
India is the perfect use case for D2M. All signs point to excellent growth in India’s smartphone and telecom sector. According to Deloitte, India is projected to have 1 billion smartphone users by 2026. Deloitte also said that over 80% of internet traffic comprised video content. It’s the perfect scenario and optimal channel to disseminate broadcast TV content. D2M will ultimately be good for consumers. They can access multimedia content without exhausting their mobile data.
From a broadcaster’s standpoint, D2M, or NexGen Broadcast as it has been labelled, would empower them to use the network as a conduit for applications other than traditional TV or radio. Think along the lines of educational content, video-on-demand services, or emergency alerts. With this comes expanded viewership, personalised news and ads, and perhaps higher advertising revenues.
COUNTERVIEW: Immature tech
Embracing new technology for the sake of it doesn’t seem like a good idea. We’ve first got to ask – why D2M? Why D2M when DTH, cable TV, and streaming services and applications are already accessible and delivering content to people? Doordarshan, for example, has been undertaking trials with IIT Kanpur and a chipmaker to deliver D2M, known as ATSC 3.0. There’s still no business case for this technology, and it already has limited use in places like the US and South Korea.
Crucially, there aren’t any smartphones with ATSC 3.0 capabilities embedded in them. Some have argued that ATSC was never meant for mobile technology. To make ATSC 3.0 suitable for D2M, changes would need to be made for mobile phones and networks. This would take years to initiate and scale up. In fact, the India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) said incorporating ATSC 3.0 will “adversely impact mobile manufacturing efforts”.
The biggest challenge ahead for D2M is convincing the stakeholders. Would the economics of D2M benefit the everyday consumer? The average internet user pays about ₹250 for 2GB of data per day. Additional charges of ₹150-200 might not be appealing. What about the telecom operators? They’re understandably sceptical. D2M will essentially allow phones to pick up TV signals ‘off the air’. With no data consumption, that’s bad news for the telcos as there goes their data revenue.
- How telco partnerships spurred the growth of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, ALTBalaji, and others in India – YourStory
- India’s smartphone market is set to surge – Morgan Stanley
- Why internet growth has stalled in India – BBC
- What is Direct to Mobile technology? – Analytics India Magazine
- How feasible is D2M broadcast for India? – Indian Broadcasting World
- Did India Miss the Bus to Direct-to-Mobile Long Back? – Analytics India Magazine
- Telcos, chip makers oppose direct-to-mobile plan; say tech still immature – Business Standard
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) Direct-to-mobile (D2M) technology will be a boon for India.
b) Direct-to-mobile (D2M) technology won’t be a boon for India.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Direct benefits are a legitimate aspect of building a political mandate
For the Left:
Opposition will pay for its silence on Pasmanda Muslims
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Beef transport (Uttar Pradesh) – The Allahabad High Court, in a case involving Vaseem Ahmad, observed that the Uttar Pradesh Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act does not prohibit the transportation of beef. Justice Pankaj Bhatia made this observation while overturning a confiscation order for Ahmad’s motorcycle, which was allegedly used for transporting beef. The court clarified that the Act’s restrictions only apply to the transportation of cows, bulls, or bullocks from outside to inside Uttar Pradesh, and there is no prohibition or regulation on the transportation of beef within the state.
Why it matters: This judgment is significant as it clarifies the legal interpretation of the Uttar Pradesh Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, particularly concerning the transportation of beef. By distinguishing between the transportation of live animals and beef, the court’s decision underscores the importance of precise legal understanding in enforcing such laws.
ASAP and dSPACE partnership (Kerala) – ASAP Kerala, a state-run skill development agency, has entered into a strategic partnership with dSPACE, a Germany-based leader in mechatronics system software technology. This collaboration aims to provide employment opportunities for skilled youth in Kerala. The Memorandum of Agreement was signed by ASAP Kerala’s chairperson Usha Titus and dSPACE India’s managing director Franklin George.
Why it matters: As part of this agreement, dSPACE will recruit 100 candidates who successfully complete specialized skill training. Both parties will also develop industry-relevant skill courses, with ASAP conducting specialized courses and training to boost employability.
NIA raids (Bihar) – The National Investigation Agency (NIA) conducted raids across 31 locations in Bihar to disrupt and prevent a revival conspiracy by the banned CPI-Maoist group in the Magadh zone. These raids targeted the premises of accused and suspected individuals in Aurangabad, Rohtash, Kaimur, Gaya, and Saran (Chhapra).
Why it matters: During the raids, evidence of the involvement of top CPI (Maoist) commanders in the revival efforts in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh was uncovered. The NIA seized two country-made pistols, over Rs 3.53 lakh in cash, various digital devices, and incriminating documents. The searches were conducted at the homes of four arrested CPI (Maoist) commanders and 27 suspected workers, supporters, and sympathisers of the group.
IIT Goa’s placement triumph (Goa) – The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Goa achieved an impressive 99% placement rate for its BTech batch of 2019-2023, with 104 out of 105 registered students securing job offers. The average annual package for the BTech students was ₹17.19 LPA, with the highest package reaching ₹60 LPA. While Computer Science Engineering and Electrical Engineering witnessed 100% placement, Mechanical Engineering saw 27 out of 28 registered students placed.
Why it matters: The institute also attracted international job offers from companies like Accenture Japan, Willings, and Linkstaff. A total of 126 companies participated in the placement drive, offering roles across various domains such as Software Engineering, Product Management, and Consultancy. This success is significant for a relatively new institution like IIT Goa, established in 2016, and reflects its rapid growth and potential as a leading technical education hub in India.
Bhutia’s political merge (Sikkim) – Former Indian footballer and Hamro Sikkim Party president Bhaichung Bhutia announced the merger of his party with the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), led by ex-Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling. In an SDF program in Rabongla, Bhutia emphasised the need for unity to “save Sikkim,” endorsing Chamling’s leadership for the upcoming 2024 Sikkim Assembly elections. He criticised current Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang (also known as Golay), labelling him the “weakest” CM in Sikkim’s history and accusing him of diluting Sikkimese identity and rights.
Why it matters: This political realignment signifies a major shift in Sikkim’s political landscape, as Bhutia, a prominent local figure, aligns with the SDF. His support for Chamling and criticism of the current CM reflect growing concerns about state governance and identity preservation.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
1.1 lakh – According to a study by Surfshark, the Indian government has asked Google to remove approximately 1.1 lakh pieces of content from its platforms over the period from 2013 to 2022.