India's Billion-Dollar LTE Question

5:00 AM -- With the initial shock of last week's spectrum auction and acquisition action behind it, the team at Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) is starting to drip-feed nuggets of information about its broadband wireless intentions in India. (See India's BWA Auction Ends in $8.2B Drama, Oh Brother!, and BWA Auction Is Bad News for WiMax's Future .)

Following an upcoming US$1 billion rights issue, Reliance Industries will soon own Infotel Broadband, the only company to have successfully bid for spectrum in all of India's 22 circles.

Reliance Industries has already said it plans to deploy TD-Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology as part of an "asset light strategy." It intends to "forge several strategic relations with a host of leading global technology players, service providers, infrastructure providers, application developers, device manufacturers and others to leapfrog India to the 4G revolution."

That gives Reliance Industries myriad options as it figures out how best to use its 20MHz slots of spectrum. But it clearly has a plan of action, as the company has told Reuters that it intends to invest $5 billion in Infotel during the next two years. That sum includes the $2.74 billion Infotel must now pay for the spectrum it won in the auction.

That leaves about $2.25 billion over two years to start ushering in a "wireless broadband revolution." With TD-LTE technology still in its infancy, does this mean the upfront investment will be in the passive infrastructure and back office Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) capabilities? Or will Reliance/Infotel be among the first, alongside Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM), to deploy TD-LTE in a commercial network? (See Qualcomm Still Silent on India Partners.)

The world's telecom system vendors are no doubt already forming a disorderly queue outside Reliance Industries' Mumbai headquarters.

The critical issue of wireless technology deployment in India, and the associated business models, will be discussed in depth at the Mobile Broadband Summit 2010 one-day events in New Delhi (July 7) and Mumbai (July 9). To find out more, check out the event Website.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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