Contemporary South Asia, 12(1):85-102, 3, 2003. Paper abstract bibtex
Wireless in Local Loop (WiLL), a radio communications solution with implica tions for the provision of cheaper telephony in urban and rural areas, has become a topic of a debate in India over what has become known as the 'Poor Man's Mobile Phone'. This paper examines access to 'telematics' (not simple phone ownership), the validity of 'teledensity' as a statistical tool, the view that rural people are too poor to justify phone infrastructure, and the validity of cross-subsidy arguments from city to rural areas. The need to seek overseas investment is questioned, since developing countries can avoid expensive foreign telecommunications equipment through low-cost, high-quality, indigenous telematics equipment production. India, for instance, has installed more than 20 million such indigenous phone lines, saving billions of dollars. Internet, not just phone, connectivity, is essential for rural people to increase earnings. Politics, price, technical differences, and internet access are examined in relation to two competing WiLL products: India's corDECT, and the American/South Korean CDMA. Finally, it is suggested that the information gap cannot be 'bridged'. Instead, developing countries will have to wrest control of the web for their own regions.