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Indian govt selects WiMAX to connect rural areas

Posted: 28 Mar 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:PC penetration 

The government of India may be pushing WiMAX technology especially for broadband connectivity in rural areas, but the country will have only 69 lakh mobile and fixed WiMAX connections by the end of 2011, as the country-specific mobile broadband framework makes a national rollout too costly.

According to research firm Gartner Inc., India will remain a niche market for this technology until 2009. "Although presented as an important driver for broadband policy in India, the Indian government has failed to effectively motivate operators to roll out country-wide mobile broadband. WiMAX has been selected by the Indian government to connect rural areas to the Internet. However, low PC penetration will lead to limited demand in the near term. WiMAX is still a niche technology and limited to enterprise and high-end residential users in urban India."

Short of target
India had only 34 lakh broadband subscribers in January 2008, far short of the target of 90 lakhby 2007 set by the country's broadband policy, said Naresh Singh, principal research analyst for Gartner. Mobile frequencies will not be available in the short term, so most WiMAX connections in the short- and mid-term will be for nomadic or fixed-wireless applications.

The limitation of spectrum allocation means that the only deployment for a sustained business case is to bring WiMAX broadband (point-to-point 802.16-2004) to rural centers in villages, schools, hospitals and so on. From the access point, individual access will then be available via a Wi-Fi mesh. In urban areas, WiMAX can be used to offer mobile and semi-mobile broadband to consumers and enterprise customers, he said.

"The timeline and bandwidth of 3G and WiMAX licenses will heavily impact the future mobile broadband access market share in between 3G and WiMAX. The permission for mobility in the WiMAX license will also influence the future of WiMAX growth. Also, 3G seems to have, in comparison to WiMAX, a better ecosystem in place. In the near-term, the Indian WiMAX market is not very promising."

Leading Indian communications service providers are in various stages of offering WiMAX services in the country, but it could, for now, be limited to fixed WiMAX, since the spectrum policy for mobile WiMAX is yet to be announced.

Interim solution
But operators in India, too, could use unlicensed spectrum for WiMAX services instead of waiting for the policy to be announced, as has happened in parts of Eastern Europe, France, Vietnam, Thailand and some other countries, said Sujai Karampuri, co-founder and chief executive of WiMAX equipment company, Sloka Telecom Pvt. Ltd, in Bengaluru.

"The rollout of mobile WiMAX in India is not clear, but service providers here appear to be taking 3G more seriously than WiMAX at the moment. Despite falling prices of equipment, only by 2010-11 does one see any explosive growth for WiMAX in India," Karampuri added.

- K.C. Krishnadas
EE Times





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