Great expectations for India

05 Sep 2007

Its rival technology may have an eight-year headstart, but CDMA is determined to make a big splash in the world's fastest growing mobile market. CDG COO James Person explains to senior contributor Rajesh Prothi why the group is so bullish

Wireless Asia: What brought you to India‾

James Person: India is the fastest growing telecom market in the world and also the fastest growing CDMA market. We opened an office in India last year, which is the first outside the US. My visit to India is to commemorate the success of our CDMA operators and the first anniversary of our office in New Delhi.

What was CDG's reasoning behind choosing to open its first foreign office in India‾

We felt the need to support our member companies in advocacy and technology development through closer coordination. Considering India's long-term potential, we decided to open an Indian office. With Reliance's aggressive strategy, India has become the focus and today is adding more subscribers on a month-on-month basis than China.

The Indian government is expected to announce a 3G policy soon. What kind of announcement would make the CDMA world happy‾

We'd be happy if the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) would implement the recommendations it got from the industry consultations in September 2006 [suggesting to earmark the 450-MHz, 800-MHz and 2.1-GHz bands for 3G cellular]. However, we are concerned about the bands that will be allocated for 3G services. We're hoping the 450-MHz band will be allowed for CDMA operators as not enough spectrum is available in the 800-MHz band, while 1900-MHz availability is also a question mark.

While GSM leads in urban areas, the focus for expansion is increasing toward rural India. Are CDMA operators ready to take on this challenge‾

Because of the spectral efficiency of CDMA, the technology requires fewer towers compared to GSM technology for the same coverage area. This helps CDMA cover a geographic area more cost-effectively.

Both Reliance and Tata have a wide reach in India, covering more rural towns than any other operator. Reliance has more than 60,000 kilometers of fiber-optic backbone - the largest in India. Both players are integrated operators offering basic, mobile, national local distance and international long distance connectivity. For GSM, only Bharti is a fully integrated player.

And despite an eight-year lead for GSM, CDMA subscribers now total 50 million, representing a market share of 30%.

How will India's competitive landscape be affected by Reliance now focused solely on CDMA-based services‾

Reliance is one of the largest CDMA operators not just in India but in the world and is growing at a very respectable rate. The same is true for Tata. Both companies are aggressively expanding their networks and promoting handsets, which will not only help them grow, but will support growth of the technology in India.

We see Reliance soon challenging Bharti's leadership in the mobility market. We are sure that CDMA has a bright future in India in voice as well as data services. This will further consolidate once the 3G policy is announced and implemented.

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