Rumor: India Coup for WiMax Camp
The move is significant, not only for the Indian market, but for the global WiMax sector. Having acquired Infotel, RIL is the only company to hold a countrywide BWA (Broadband Wireless Access) license in India, and indicated at the time of the acquisition that it planned to build a TD-Long Term Evolution (LTE) network. (See India's Billion-Dollar LTE Question, India's BWA Auction Ends in $8.2B Drama, Oh Brother!, and RIL Takes Over Infotel.)
That plan was widely regarded as a major blow for the WiMax sector, even though there has been support for WiMax from other parts of India's carrier community. (See BWA Auction Is Bad News for WiMax's Future , WiMax, 3G to Dominate India's Broadband Future, and India's Still Hot for WiMax, Says Forum .)
But in recent weeks there has been growing speculation that Reliance Infotel, as RIL's broadband wireless subsidiary is known, might have to deploy WiMax to kick-start its commercial rollout while TD-LTE is developed further. (See All WiMax Eggs in Reliance Basket.)
And according to an industry source, who requested anonymity, a senior team from Samsung's Korea headquarters is arriving in India tonight to close a WiMax technology deal with Reliance Infotel.
"Reliance is looking at signing a deal which encompasses both network infrastructure as well as devices for the end user. This is the main reason that Samsung is at the forefront. The closest competitor to Samsung is Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , but they don't have good distribution infrastructure, which is why the deal is likely to tilt in favor of Samsung," says the source.
However, Reliance Infotel says the company is yet to take a final decision on its technology roadmap. "The trial of both the technologies [TD-LTE and WiMax] is still going on and it will take at least a month or two before we get the results of the trial and decide in favor of one of the two technologies," states a Reliance Infotel official who didn't wish to be named. (See Ambani Faces Broadband Challenges.)
Reliance Infotel's decision is critical to both the WiMax and TD-LTE camps: WiMax needs all the support it can get right now in the face of strong mindset competition from TD-LTE's supporters, who are looking to build on the momentum that China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL) is generating. In addition, US operator Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR), one of the world's biggest WiMax service providers, has indicated it is checking out the potential of TD-LTE technology. (See Clearwire Expands Summer WiMax Rollout.)
On a more local level, Reliance Infotel's decision will impact the decision of BWA license holders in India, none of which want to be supporting a minority technology.
— Gagandeep Kaur, India Editor, Light Reading