Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The telco balls of brass

Here. Admire the telco chutzpah. Telcos getting back with a vengeance with 3G iPhone pricing that is nothing short of a rip off. Get ready to pay Rs 31,000 for the entry-level 8GB phone and Rs 36,100 for a 16 GB memory. Both Vodafone and Airtel will launch the iPhone on August 22 and early reports suggest that they would be able to sell over 100,000 phones in the next 12 months.

It is much cheaper in the US (because the telcos subsidize it) where the handset is available for $199 (Rs 8,358) plus $99 (Rs 4,158) as an annual contract with the carrier that has the exclusivity. In India however, neither company will offer a subsidy.

The telcos here flout all license conditions but will shamelessly cry for a level playing field when TRAI chose to open up open access internet telephony to ISPs that are technically resellers and not carriers. Our experience with Indian carriers has been one of abject apathy to overcharging despite their vast customer base. Unless TRAI tracks down areas where telcos gouge Indian customers and direct them to slash costs, they will never. Opening up internet telephony is the latest.

But tell me something. Isn’t there a recession that we’ve been bracing up until a few days back? Now I hear folks queuing up to buy iPhone at nearly 3x the price that it sells in the US. Have we turned incurable gadget freaks or is it that we have suddenly discovered a ton of data to download or that we get lost on our way home without a state of art GPS or will we die starved of entertainment feed from much touted direct connection to YouTube that the 3G avatar is expected to provide?

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