Kochi: Mobile phone use in Kerala is now 25 years old. It was on September 17, 1996, that Jnanpith Award winner Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, who enthralled us with his memorable novels such as the 'Chemmeen' and 'Kayar' made the first call from a mobile phone in the State.
The venue was the Avenue Regent Hotel in Kochi. And the event was the inauguration of the mobile phone service launched by Escotel Mobile Communications Ltd.
On the other side, the person who picked the call at the Kochi Naval Base was the then Vice-Admiral of the Indian Navy, A R Tandon. Nobody knew then that it was the scripting of a new history.
Escotel, which pioneered the mobile phone revolution in the State, slowly faded away from the scene and other internet service providers took over its place.
The mobile phone service in India was launched in August 1995 by the then West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu by talking to Union Communication Minister Sukh Ram while sitting at his office at Writers' Building in Kolkata. Sukh Ram attended the call from Sanchar Bhavan in New Delhi. That mobile service was offered by Modi Telstra.
Sea change in last 20 years
In 1996, mobile phones were a luxury product. It looked like a small brick and cost between Rs 40,000 to Rs 500,00 — approximately Rs 2 lakh as per current value, in the market. Today, you get smartphones starting from a price of Rs 4,000. Nobody could even think of smartphones then. The only feature available in phones was the dial-pad to make phone calls. For one minute, a single call used to cost Rs 4. Rs16 was charged for outgoing calls and Rs 8 for incoming calls then.
The demand for mobile phones soared when the incoming calls were made free in 2003. The rate for outgoing calls came down drastically with the advent of the smartphone revolution. With the arrival of new Apps, buying a radio or alarm clock or calculator has become a thing of the past. Phone calls to has now become free. Mobile data has become quintessential. From studies to watching movies, things have reached such a stage that students rely only on mobile phones.
There has been an increase of 1.12 crore mobile phone connections in Kerala during the last 10 years. Of this, an increase in 70 lakh connections was reported after Reliance Jio came into the scene in 2016. Of the total number of mobile phones in India, Kerala has a share of 3.81 per cent.
During this period, a decline of 18.61 lakh landline connections was reported from the State. With the introduction of fibre connections that offer high-speed internet, the wireless connection in Kerala has touched 13.47 lakh compared to 12.99 lakh in 2020.
Internet was first introduced in India on Independence Day, August 15, 1995, by the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL). Then one had to cough up Rs 5,000 yearly for getting 9.6 Kbps (kilobytes) internet in a second. For commercial purposes, the rate charged was Rs 25,000. To get a leased line connection, one had to spend around Rs 6 lakh.
The maximum speed for the internet during those times was 128 Kbps. For getting maximum speed, the annual rate charged was Rs 25 lakh. The professionals were given a 9.6 Kbps connection.
Today's average speed for internet connection is 17.96 Mbps. In fixed broadband lines, it is 62.45 Mbps. Now only Rs 6.6 is charged for 1 GB of internet data, though prior to 2014, the charge was Rs 225.