& cplSiteName &

India Looks to WiMax for Broadband

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
1/16/2006
50%
50%

In contrast to the explosive growth of mobile in India, the country is struggling to get broadband connectivity off the ground with its limited fixed-line infrastructure -- paving the way for WiMax as a potential savior.

On the face of it, 2005 was the year broadband arrived in India –- it started the year with just 49,000 broadband subscribers, and ended with 835,000, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) , a 17-fold increase. But considering India has a population of 1.08 billion, broadband penetration was less than 0.01 per cent.

The most recent available figures from TRAI show there was a total of 6.1 million Internet subscribers in September, and analyst firm Tonse Telecom estimates that rose to somewhere between 6.9 million and 7.1 million in December. That means about 1 in 8 connections was broadband (defined as higher than 256 kbit/s).

Table 1: Internet connectivity in India

Dec 04 Mar 05 Jun 05 Sep 05 Dec 05
Internet subscribers 5,450,000 5,554,000 5,892,000 6,125,000 6,900,000*
Broadband subscribers 49,000 186,000 396,000 610,000 835,000
Internet caf�s 74,000 n/a n/a n/a 105,350*
*estimate
Source: TRAI, Tonse Telecom




"It's absolutely abysmal compared to other countries with equal per capita GDP," says Ravi Bhagavan, vice president at consultancy Galileo Global Advisors LLC , noting that the government's broadband policy target was to have 3 million subscribers by the end of 2005. "Talk about aiming at the sky and shooting the treetops... In fact, I think they hit the trunk."

There are carrier efforts underway to encourage adoption -- offering cut price packages and PC bundles, looking for ways to build out networks -- but the existing network is not extensive enough to meet demand, and so far their focus has largely been on handling the rush for mobile services. (See India's Telecom Market Accelerates.) "There is a certain level of buildout of the fixed network, but it's mostly mobile and fixed wireless," says Bhagavan, who was surprised to see the majority of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) 's $4 billion-plus network investment going on mobile. (See Mega BSNL Contract Looms.) "The carriers may have lost focus on broadband development... They may be struggling with that issue."

There are several reasons for the lack of investment in India's Internet connectivity:
  • Until recently, incumbents owned almost 95 percent of India’s last-mile copper links, which are not open for shared access by other carriers, and had not committed to building out the local loop.
  • Undeveloped cable assets. Cable operators have had a hard time raising financing for capital investment, leaving the telcos to provide broadband service via DSL.
  • Connectivity and transit remain expensive. The high cost of circuits has made it difficult for ISPs to provide cost-effective services -- at $20,000, a 2-Mbit/s E1 line is far higher than the cost of a comparable circuit in the U.S. India only opened its first Internet exchange, National Internet eXchange of India (NIXI) , in 2004, and connectivity charges remain high compared to other countries.
  • Restrained consumer interest. Low PC penetration, the price of broadband services, and lack of local content are all factors, although as India's economy grows, demand for services is taking off.


In Tonse Telecom's latest report, founder Sridhar Pai writes: "It is now clear that India needs a broadband savior to reduce the great divide." And that's where WiMax comes in.

The cost of fiber and the logistics of laying cable in the ground continue to turn off carriers from building out their fixed networks, whereas mobile technologies enable them to install equipment above the ground relatively quickly.

WiMax -- the metro version of wireless LAN -- is being heralded by vendors and carriers alike as the way to roll out broadband services wirelessly, given that around 70 percent of India's population lives in rural areas where there is little telecom infrastructure of any description. "Everybody agrees wireless is the way to go," Pai tells Light Reading.

The Indian government has committed to using its Universal Service Obligation (USO) fund (under which alternative carriers compensate incumbents for providing services in uneconomic locations) to build out rural telecom networks and is looking at inviting bids from operators to build and run wireless base stations. "There may be sharing to some extent between the top three bidders," says Bhagavan at Galileo. "That is going to substantially open things up not just for cellular service, but for WiMax as well."

Several of India's major carriers, including Reliance Communications Ltd. , Bharti Tele-Ventures Ltd. , and Sify Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: SIFY), have acquired spectrum licenses to deploy wireless broadband services and have expressed interest in going with WiMax. BSNL, the largest carrier, has announced plans to offer WiMax services in Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, New Delhi, and Mumbai in 2006.

On the equipment side, vendors see developing markets as a major opportunity for WiMax, and Table 2 lists those who are active in India.

Table 2: WiMax vendors in India
Company Sales Engineering
Alcatel - CDOT Yes Yes
Axxcelera Broadband Wireless Yes No
Beceem Communications Yes Yes
Cambridge Broadband Yes No
Gemtek (now Browan) Yes No
Intel Yes Yes
Ixia No Yes
Kyocera Yes Yes
Motorola Yes Yes
Navini Yes Yes
Nokia Yes Yes
Nortel Yes Yes
PMC Sierra via Avnet No
Samsung Yes Yes
Telsima Yes Yes
Vcom via MRO TEK No
Wintegra Yes Yes
WiLan Yes No
Source: Tonse Telecom




Companies based in India, like Beceem Communications Inc. and Telsima Corp. , are already firmly on the WiMax bandwagon. "Local Indian vendors have a natural advantage to manufacture at lower costs compared to their international peers," says Bhagavan. "They can produce indigenous versions of WiMax systems at a fifth or a tenth of the cost." (See Beceem Accelerates WiMax, India's VC Race Boosts Telsima, and Moto Pushes WiMax in Asia.)

But there's a note of caution to the WiMax hype. As Pai writes, "The problem with WiMAX as a solution for India today is it may be too little, [and] too early" for the kind of large-scale rapid deployment that's needed.

The first wave of WiMax products is coming up for certification by the WiMAX Forum . But even then, it's not just a case of installing some WiMax kit. Pai says that the fiber network in India is typically 15 kilometers from the last mile. As Light Reading's WiMax Guide notes, "Although the maximum radius of a cell is theoretically 50 km (depending on the frequency band chosen), typical deployments will use cells of radii from 3 to 10 km." Pai reckons it's more likely that "WiFi/WiMax combinations with 3G might be able to do the trick."

In the meantime, he writes, "While much is being discussed about the last mile and the optimal technology to get there, the undeterred Indian internet user perhaps is less concerned about getting the RJ45 into his home wall socket. He has already left for the nearby cyber dhaba [Internet café]."

— Nicole Willing, Reporter, Light Reading

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
From The Founder
Kicking off BCE 2017, Light Reading founder Steve Saunders lays blame for NFV's slow ramp-up and urges telecom to return to old-fashioned standards building and interoperability.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX at ANGA COM

6|27|17   |     |   (0) comments


At ANGA COM 2017, Cyrille Morelle, president and CEO of VeEX, updates Alan Breznick with VeEX's new products and technology. This includes VeSion cloud-based platform for network monitoring, AT2500-3G advanced spectrum analyzer and MTTplus-900 WiFi Air Expert module. He also comments on DOCSIS 3.1 deployment and Remote PHY technology.
LRTV Custom TV
The Overall Objective Is to Win the Game

6|26|17   |     |   (0) comments


SCTE•ISBE's Chris Bastian discusses Energy 2020's success to date and the importance of a flexible approach that allows for changes in specific strategies in order to reach significant milestones.
LRTV Interviews
CenturyLink: Let's Get Past SD-WAN Hype

6|23|17   |   04:02   |   (0) comments


Technology becomes a "shiny object" unless it's properly focused on solving business needs for enterprise customers, says Bill Grubbs, network solutions architect for CenturyLink. He explains to Light Reading why SD-WAN deployments have to be tailored to specific needs – and more.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Infinera's Sales Director Paints Tech's Big Picture

6|21|17   |   4:14   |   (1) comment


Shannon Williams, Infinera's director of sales, shares how she achieves work's many balancing acts -- between her role and the broader company, today and tomorrow's tech and more.
LRTV Custom TV
SD-WAN Innovation & Trends

6|20|17   |     |   (0) comments


Versa CEO Kelly Ahuja discusses with Carol Wilson the current status and trends in the SD-WAN market, Versa's innovation around building a software platform with broad contextualization, and the advantages that startups can bring to the SD-WAN market.
LRTV Interviews
Ovum's Dario Talmesio on 5G in Europe

6|20|17   |   02:16   |   (0) comments


At 5G World 2017, Dario Talmesio, principal analyst and practice leader on Ovum's fixed and mobile telecoms European team, explains the emerging trends amongst European operators as they prepare for 5G.
LRTV Custom TV
Putting Power on a Pedestal

6|19|17   |     |   (0) comments


ARRIS's John Ulm says a major accomplishment of SCTE•ISBE's Energy 2020 program is increased focus on power cost and consumption, including inclusion of energy requirements in operators' RFPs and RFIs.
LRTV Custom TV
Gigabit Access: The Last-Mile Pipe for All Future Services

6|19|17   |     |   (0) comments


A Gigabit access platform being deployed today must be able to deliver all types of services to an increasing number of devices. A non-blocking architecture is necessary to support the ever-increasing growth in bandwidth demand. The Huawei Gigabit access solution is based on a distributed design that is fully scalable to deliver a unprecedented performance.
LRTV Custom TV
Key Factors to Successfully Deploy an SD-WAN Service

6|19|17   |     |   (0) comments


As service providers transition their SD-WAN solution from trials and limited deployments into production at large scale, there are important considerations to successfully operationalize these solutions and realize their full potential, without adding complexity, introducing uncertainty or disrupting current business operations. Sunil Khandekar, CEO and Founder ...
LRTV Custom TV
IoT Solutions: Rational Exuberance

6|19|17   |     |   (0) comments


IoT solutions are morphing from hype into viable business opportunities. Huawei has the platform and ecosystem support to help carriers successfully address new business opportunities in the IoT space.
LRTV Custom TV
Realizing ICN as a Network Slice for Mobile Data Distribution

6|19|17   |     |   (1) comment


Network slicing in 5G allows the potential introduction of new network architectures such as Information-centric Networks (ICN) as a slice, managed over a shared pool of compute, storage and bandwidth resource. Services over an ICN slice can benefit from many architectural features such as Name Based Networking, Security, Multicasting, Multi-homing, Mobility, ...
LRTV Interviews
Ovum's Mike Roberts on 5G Uptake

6|19|17   |   04:08   |   (0) comments


Mike Roberts, research director for Ovum's service provider markets group, explains why he has boosted his 5G subscriptions forecast.
Upcoming Live Events
October 18, 2017, Colorado Convention Center - Denver, CO
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
November 30, 2017, The Westin Times Square
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
No Imagination: UK Chip Biz Goes Up for Sale
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/22/2017
Does AT&T Deserve Time Warner?
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 6/23/2017
Netflix's Lesson in Culture Expectation Settings
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 6/21/2017
Kalanick Steps Down as Uber CEO
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 6/21/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Following a recent board meeting, the New IP Agency (NIA) has a new strategy to help accelerate the adoption of NFV capabilities, explains the Agency's Founder and Secretary, Steve Saunders.
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.