I recently read about Bangalore becoming the first WiMAX enabled city in India. Exciting news? I guess so. These days you read so many jargons and people get all excited about these jargons even without knowing what it is about.
What about me? I have to admit I know very little about WiMAX and I was asked by our Kannada editor Sham Sundar to examine what WiMAX was all about. I don’t want to get very technical (“it is based on IEEE 802.16”) because I really don’t understand it and I don’t think it makes a difference to me. On the other hand I think it is important to understand how it makes a difference to an end user.
- Firstly some basics – WiMAX, the Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, is a telecommunications technology aimed at providing wireless data over long distances in a variety of ways, from point-to-point links to full mobile cellular type access…..More
- The WiMAX was coined by the WiMAX forum. WiMAX is a standards-based technology enabling the delivery of “last mile wireless broadband access” as an alternative to wired broadband like cable and DSL. WiMAX provides fixed , nomadic, portable and, soon, mobile wireless broadband connectivity without the need for direct line-of-sight with a base station. In a typical cell radius deployment of three to ten kilometers, WiMAX Forum Certified™ systems can be expected to deliver capacity of up to 40 Mbps per channel, for fixed and portable access applications….More
In India the last mile connectivity has always been a huge issue. BSNL has a huge advantage because it has/had the highest number of landline connections, so it is easier for them to provide the DSL connection. It is a different matter that they have fallen far behind the projected numbers (DSL). Most of them are made to wait for months to get a DSL connection from BSNL.
More than 70 per cent of Indian households do not have access to fixed wired telephone services (landlines). This basically means these households don’t have the last mile connectivity and providing DSL to such households is a big problem. No sane telco provider will want to dig the road/footpath to provide a DSL connection unless they are already providing DSL connections in that area. Getting a permission from Government is no small task.
In 2000 the footpaths of Bangalore where invaded – Reliance Telecom (when it was owned by Mukesh Ambani) were very busy digging entire Bangalore for laying their cables. I was very excited because it would translate to many more new internet users in India. The big Orange pipes where hanging and sticking out of the footpath all around Bangalore. Not sure where things failed but Reliance never took off. So what happened to those hanging pipes? It never went down the drain. Dogs were “aiming” and peeing inside these orange cables (after all why can’t they be part of the e-revolution?) and cows were scratching their front and rear ends with these cables. To summarize – “Holy Cow! Our cows were also bitten by the e-revolution!”. Good news is that Reliance (part of ADAG) is one of the leading broadband providers today
Is WiMAX important for India? I think WiMAX (and WiFi) is very important for India because of the complicated wirings we have in India. If you just look up at any junction you will see the power cables, telephone cables, TV cables all fighting for space on the poles. When it comes to TV, telephone, internet we all want uninterrupted and reliable connectivity. These I think have been addressed by the following,
- TV – Households are dumping the traditional cable connection and moving to DTH in India
- Telephone – Many households are dumping landlines and moving to mobile.
- Internet – Still with DSL, may move to WiMAX
So who was planning or is planning on providing WiMAX in India?
- In early 2005 Dishnet planned to roll out WiFi hotspots using WiMAX.
- In 2006 Intel planned to test out WiMAX in India
- All major players like VSNL, Bharti, Reliance are providing WiMAX.
ISPs see WiMAX as a big opportunity but the DoT wants to keep ISPs away from providing WiMAX. India will have an estimated 21 million WiMAX users by 2010. WiMAX will take off provided the pricing is attractive. With the Rupee getting stronger I don’t think telcos can assume “Corporates will buy WiMAX irrespective of the price”. It is a matter of time before the Corporate world tightens its belt in view of the rising Rupee and high attrition.