July 15, 2008 update: More disputes threaten to delay India’s WiMAX goldrush, by Caroline Gabriel
India is absolutely critical to the fortunes of WiMAX, and the level of uptake in the huge nation will help decide how prominent a position 802.16e takes in the overall wireless landscape in the next decade. There are many reasons for WiMAX supporters to be hopeful, but every time it appears that the technology may a major green light this year, the political disputes with which the Indian telecoms market is plagued throw another roadblock in the way.
So last week, regulator TRAI clashed once again with the Department of Telecom (DoT), threatening the plan to auction mobile broadband licenses in 2.3-2.7GHz this year alongside 3G rights – a dual-layer plan that could help underpin a wireless revolution for India, with operators able to roll out 3G and 4G services according to need, and with WiMAX likely to play a major role.
All these disagreements may seem technical, but they could enmire the process in a lengthy tit-for-tat debate that could delay the chances for WiMAX vendors to generate new revenues in India and for operators to kick off their ambitious plans. And as if that weren’t enough, TRAI has also slammed the DoT for the lack of a transparent spectrum management regime, claiming it has been kept in the dark about the progress in getting incumbents in the 2.5GHz band to vacate their frequencies. TRAI said: "The results of the efforts made by the [DoT] to get the required spectrum bands vacated/refarmed from the incumbents are not available in the public domain. The Authority has time and again emphasized that in the times to come, the spectrum will become the most valuable and scarce resource as with the advent of new data centric applications, its demand will increase and there will be competitive users for the same band of spectrum. Therefore, there is a need to have a transparent, predictable and efficient spectrum management system for allocation and pricing of the spectrum."
Previous post of June 11, 2008: by Alan J Weissberger (email@example.com)
The impact of the Reliance -MTN deal on WiMAX and 3G/4G rollouts in India is now being questioned by the Financial Times. The May 30th FT states: some industry observers are not convinced of the merits of a merger between Reliance and MTN. They said a deal could distract Reliance from plans to upgrade its mobile network in India, the world’s second fastest growing wireless market.
Reliance could offer MTN right connection
Our take: The problem is actually the Indian government’s slow bureaucratic way of dealing with any infrastructure or build out regulation. Incredibly, the 3G or WiMAX spectrum has yet to be auctioned by the Indian government.
From Amitabh Kumar: As of June 1, 2008, the issue was refered to the group of ministers ( yet again) regarding what should be the Policy for such auctions.
Unfortunately such actions do not permit companies in India to achieve economies of scale. Hence, India will NOT be the big WiMAX market many hoped!
Here’s a contrary point of vew article, published June 11th by Maravedis market researcher B. Ashai:
Indian Telecom Players Gear Up for Massive WiMAX Deployment
By Basharat H. Ashai, Market Analyst – Asia Pac & Middle East
Contact the author at Basharat@maravedis-bwa.com
The author wrote me that things are changing now. The Indian govt is very keen to allocate the spectrum. This is why companies like BSNL and others have started to gear up for massive WiMAX rollout.
"There is a lot of uncertainity in India with regard to what will be the maximum amount of spectrum allocated under each frequency band. Barring BSNL, service providers are not sure how much money they should invest in WiMAX at this point in time. The challenge will also be how many players can be accommodated with the spectrum that the government plans to allocate, and whether service providers will be able to make a viable business model out of it."