The story of WiMAX in India  

Read an article on WiMAX in India in Rediff:

On March 4, India's Tata Communications, an emerging broadband player, announced the countrywide rollout of a commercial WiMax network, the largest anywhere in the world of the high-speed, wireless broadband technology.

Already 10 Indian cities and 5,000 retail and business customers use the product, and by next year Tata will offer service in 115 cities nationwide. The folks at Tata can hardly contain their excitement. "WiMax is not experimental, it's oven-hot," says Tata's Prateek Pashine, in charge of the company's broadband and retail business.

Of course WiMax is not new. Most everyone in the industry has been talking about it for years. Intel chairman Craig Barrett has been propagating its virtues in pilot projects across the world, including India and Africa.

Sprint will be rolling out a WiMax network in Washington next month, and in other US cities next year. Until now the most advanced use of WiMax has been in Japan and Korea, where Japanese carrier KDDI and Korea Telecom offer extensive WiMax networks.

However the Japanese and Korean services are not available nationwide - KDDI will have its major rollout only in 2009 - and most people use them as supplements to the wired services.

It's in emerging economies like India, where there is little connectivity and where mobile usage is soaring because of the difficulty in getting broadband wires to homes and offices, that WiMax is likely to see its full potential as a commercially viable technology.
Intel, whose silicon chips power WiMax, has been pushing for this technology for some years and its executives are practically salivating at the thought of the successful rollout in India.

"The more countries and telcos that get behind this technology the better," says R. Sivakumar, chief executive of Intel South Asia. Predicting that the new technology will make other types of Internet access obsolete, he boasts "Tata will set the cat among the pigeons."

Tata Communications has been working on setting this up for a couple of years, and successfully completed field trials last December. It has used the technology from Telsima, a Sunnyvale (Calif.) maker of WiMax base-stations and the leading WiMax tech provider in the world.

For now, the technology will be restricted to fixed wireless, but Tata plans to make it mobile by midyear. The company has invested about $100 million in the project, which will increase to $500 million over the next four years as it begins to near its goal of having 50 million subscribers in India.

The world is watching

Global tech analysts are will be watching carefully. Though WiMax is prevalent in Korea, the Korean service is a slightly different version, says Bertrand Bidaud, a communications analyst with Gartner in Singapore. It's a Korea-specific pre-WiMax technology called WiBRO.

But the Indian market is where the conditions for a WiMax deployment are the best, he says, because of limited fixed lines. That means Tata has fewer hurdles to overcome. And as WiMax scales up fast, it will give service providers greater flexibility and costs will drop equally rapidly.

"If it doesn't succeed in India, it will be difficult (for it to succeed) anywhere else, and Bharti, Tata has been virtually asleep, with a limited subscriber base for its limited product. In fact, even with as many as seven broadband providers in the market, the total Indian subscriber base is just 3.2 million and there is no clear market leader.
But with the WiMax rollout Tata can gain a leadership position and add "a few thousand subscribers a day," says Alok Sharma, chief executive of Telsima. Tata is, of course, going for the heavy-billing corporate customer - a target audience that is beginning to make big investments in technology.

Temple service via WiMax

But also important is the ordinary Indian retail customer who can watch movies via WiMax and enjoy Tata's other unique offerings. For instance, users can take in an early morning worship service at the famous Balaji temple in South India.

The temple permitted Tata to install cameras so that Hindu devotees from around the world could watch the proceedings in the temple around the clock. To get connected initially, users will simply have to go to a store, buy a router, install it, and then they become instantly connected. It will be as easy as buying apples, Tata executives promise.
The Tata rollout is a chance for India to become cutting-edge in mobile Internet services, say WiMax boosters. For India, which "always used last year's fashion to dress itself up," says Sharma, it is a chance to launch a brand new. fourth-generation technology that the world can follow. "India is becoming the knowledge centre of the world; it should take the lead in this," he adds.

There are some other bits which I got from one of VSNLs (now known as Tata Communications) presentation:

  • ISPs using 3.3GHz spectrum for WiMAX roll-out
  • At least 3 networks being built in all large towns
  • Best spectral efficiencies

Wireless Broadband opportunity in India bigger than:

  • Entire LatAm (predominantly on 3.5 GHz)
  • Korea (at 2.3 GHz)

Current deployments by Indian operators rival the biggest ofWiMAX deployments around the world. VSNL deploys the largest WiMAX network in a city across the world.

Soft launched on December 31, 2007 in BANGALORE:

  • Silicon Valley of India
  • 8 million people and over 10000 industries
  • 86% literacy ( national avg – at 61%) - second highest literacy rate for an Indian metropolis, after Mumbai.
  • More than 1000 software companies - Infosys and Wipro, India's second and third largest software companies are headquartered in Bangalore
  • The population of the IT industry folks in Bangalore is 5% i.e 400,000.
  • Bangalore's per capita income of Rs. .49,000 (US$ 1,160) is the highest for any Indian city.
  • Launched with 132 BTS, will be adding another 28 by March 2008
  • 3.3 Ghz, 12 Mhz, 3 Mhz/sector, 4 sectors85% of the city covered
  • The response has been far better than what we had anticipated
  • In 20 days we have installed an equivalent of 10% of the existing wireline base
  • Currently a huge backlog of orders to be installedCustomer experience has been fantastic
  • Additional BTS to ensure full coverage planned

Way forward:

  • Enterprise roll out into another 300 cities over the next 15 months
  • Retail roll out into another 15 – 20 cities over the next 15 months
  • Spectrum in 2.5/2.3 Ghz awaited

[get this widget]

AddThis Social Bookmark Button