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Wireless to drive broadband spread

Canada-based broadband research organisation Maravedis Inc. has forecast that the Indian broadband market, which has refused to take off despite the regulator’s best efforts, is likely to go the cellular way with the growth being led by emerging wireless technologies.

In a study conducted in association with Tonse Telecom, Maravedis said India is likely to add nearly 1.3 crore wireless broadband connections over the next seven years.

“More than 70 per cent of Indian households do not have access to fixed wired telephone services. The gap is being filled by cellular phone carriers, who now have the infrastructure to provide service to more than 10 crore customers,” said Adlane Fellah, senior analyst at Maravedis and co-author of the ‘India Wireless Broadband and WiMAX Market Analysis and Forecasts’.

The report points out that though wired broadband services are available in 300 towns in the country, subscriber figures are still “negligible” at nearly 15 lakh.

It estimates wireless broadband services – primarily based on the WiMAX technology – will be commercially launched in the country over the next few months.

“Bharti Tele, Reliance, BSNL and the Tata group have all acquired licences in the required range and are in various stages of trials and modest commercial deployments,” Fellah said.

He added, “According to our evidence, larger deployments will start to materialise in early 2007, but volumes in the millions will take a few years to materialise.”

The report, however, states the monthly average revenue generated from current broadband services is barely enough to see wireless service providers through.

“The Indian telecom sector operates in a volume-driven market. If wireless broadband is to succeed it will only be on the premise of huge volumes –not small deployments... The average revenue per broadband user in India is estimated at $8-10 (Rs 370-460) a month. Wireless broadband adoption will depend on very low-cost end-to-end pricing,” the report adds.

“We estimate that, with current WiMAX technology, it is possible to provide wireless access to broadband at 256 kilobytes per second for as low as $8 a month on sufficient volumes. Minimum user charges may need to go up to $20 a month depending on the speed (up to 1,000 kbps or around 35 times that of the dial-up) and whether the services is pre-paid or not,” Fellah said.

He also pointed out that spectrum allocation continues to be a problem in the country.

“The current availability is in the 3.3-3.4 GHz band, which is not part of the WiMAX profile bands.

Chunks of 3.5 GHz should be opened up by the government, hopefully in 2007,” the analyst said, adding most – if not all – of the customers are likely to be homes, with mobile broadband likely to catch on only in 2009.



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