50K WiMAX Subscribers in India Before the Spectrum Auction- Number to Exceed 13 Million by 2013

The Economic Times of India reports that Tata Communications (TCL) has signed up 50,000 subscribers for its fixed WiMAX service. TCL, earlier known as VSNL, had received WiMax spectrum in the 3.3 GHz band under its Internet Service Provider (ISP) licence with the Indian government.   Other Indian network operators- Bharti Airtel, Aircel, Sify and Reliance Communications – also own spectrum in this band.

Tata Communications Internet Services (TCISL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of TCL, is investing substantially for its WiMAX rollout to ensure that it gets a headstart in the acquisition of subscribers. The company, with a WiMAX capex outlay of $500 million for three years ending FY12, has put in place around 1,400 base stations across 140 cities. This makes it the largest WiMax network in the world, according to TCISL COO Prateek Pashine.   TCISL has procured its WiMax equipment from Telsima Corp, a company recently acquired by Harris Stratex Networks. TCISL is obtaining customer premise equipment (CPE) from Taiwan-based networking and communications equipment firm Universal Scientific Industrial (USI).

On the much-delayed spectrum auctions, Mr Pashine said the industry was eagerly looking forward to offering services in the 2.2-to-2.3 Ghz band, which will be auctioned later this year (if you believe the Indian IT Ministry). “The postponement has delayed customer acquisition and rollout of services and revenues associated with that,” he said.   For our posts on the often delayed India spectrum auctions, please see:

Will it Ever Happen? India May Delay 3G Auction, Raise Prices

The follow on comments imply that the auction will not be held till 2010! That is great cause for concern for the broadband wireless industry in India, in our opinion.

 

For further details on TCL’s WiMAX network, please see: TCL ropes in 50k for WiMax broadband

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Infotech/TCL-ropes-in-50k-for-WiMax-broadband/articleshow/4461142.cms


 

Separately, market research firms Maravedis and Tonse predict WiMAX Subscribers in India will Exceed 13 Million by 2013. A new report concludes that deployment of 3G and WiMAX will generate a reasonable user base over the next 5 year period, before noticeable LTE deployments begin to make an impact in India. Maravedis, in partnership with leading Indian telecom market research and analysis firm Tonse Telecom, just released the 3rd Edition of “India Wireless Broadband and WiMAX Market Analysis and Forecasts, 2009-2013.”

“Despite delayed spectrum auctions that are impeding a tremendous economic driver, 3G/BWA/WiMAX network activity is already on a roll,” said Sridhar Pai, co-author of the report and Tonse Telecom CEO. “For the severely underserved Indian broadband market, demand for wireless broadband connectivity continues across all sectors: retail, SOHO, SMEs and large enterprises alike,” he continued.

According to the report, the big push will be seen post-spectrum auctions. “However, aided by pre-allocation in the 2.5GHz band, incumbents are already developing massive national rollout plans for both 3G and WiMAX. Expect significant pan-India deployments from other successful auction bidders,” said Maravedis CEO Adlane Fellah.

While the global economy is lying dormant, demand for telecommunications services in India continues to fuel significant growth in the sector. “We estimate that in 2008, approximately 10,000 BWA/WiMAX base station sectors were deployed in total. Currently there are about 300,000 BWA/WiMAX subscribers already using these services,” Pai noted.

“Wireless CAPEX has already reached US$ sub-100 levels per line, thereby confirming the primary transport technology will be wireless,” added Fellah.

Key Findings of the report:

  • Internet access is still the big broadband driver in India, with wireless broadband becoming the clear option owing to economics and ease of deployment.
  • BWA operators have yet to resolve many service quality issues.
  • India is expected to see the world’s lowest end-to-end cost for WiMAX services, with costs driven down faster than in any other market.
  •  Computer penetration is still very low and the Indian telecom sector operates in a volume-driven market.
  •  Innovative business models such as public-private partnerships will emerge, together with low cost devices and a vibrant ecosystem.

Here is a relevent quote from the report:

“While there has been some talk about delayed auctions for BWA/WIMAX, potentially leading to a closing of the window for WiMAX and thereby operators having to wait for LTE, we think this is unlikely. The broadband market is far underserved and has already been delayed. There is a sizeable market opportunity now that needs to be met and BWA/WiMAX is capable of doing so. It will take some time before LTE stabilizes and the device economics play out to deliver mass-market volumes. We believe that the 3G/WiMAX streams will be deployed and generate a reasonable user base over the next 5 year period before noticeable LTE deployments begin to make an impact in these emerging markets.

Meanwhile, for those operators who seized the day with whatever slim bands were available in 3.3GHz, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Reliance and Tata Communications, who launched their BWA/WiMAX services in multiple locations, showed what could be done with innovation and radio optimization, combined with passive infrastructure sharing and aggressive marketing in a market where latent demand stifled expansion and traditional wire-line data was just not delivering.  The entire 3.3GHz experience reaffirmed that the fundamental business case for fixed wireless in India is real and immediate.”

For more information, please visit: http://www.maravedis-bwa.com/

The Virtual Business – A Telco Opportunity

This is an example of the video interface of the Pronto unified messaging client.Software as a service has been a big buzzword in Silicon Valley technology circles for a number of years. It finally seems to be filtering to the independent telcos, as evidenced by last month’s OPASTCO-Microsoft venture and this week’s announcement at NTCA’s Annual Expo that Goldfield Telecommunications and Communigate are partnering to bring the latter’s technology to independent telcos.

As reported previously in the Viodi View, Communigate offers a a communications suite, based on Adobe’s Flash and Flex 2 technology, which promises to integrate communications and multimedia applications via multiple devices, such as computers, cell phones, personal digital assistants and IPTV set-tops. This approach of software as a service is ideal for the SOHO or small business looking to offload some or all of the hassles and costs of I.T. support. 

In short, software as a service makes for more sticky customers. On a personal note, having used software services such as Google (mail servers) and Oracle’s Upshot (Customer Relationship Management), I am convinced that most small businesses will migrate to this approach over time. Software services could be great addition to a telco’s broadband bundle.