Indonesia gears up for Wimax

Yaziz Hasan
10 Nov 2008

While seeing explosive growth of its mobile user base, Indonesia is struggling to get broadband connectivity off the ground with its limited fixed-line infrastructure.

This opens up big opportunities for BWA/Wimax to provide broadband internet services to the many rural and underserved areas.

The government is preparing to hold a tender for the provision of Wimax services in Q4.

According to Suhono Harso Supangkat, wireless expert at the Ministry of Communication and Information, the government is finalizing the regulatory aspects of BWA services, such as connectivity, cheap internet access and local content. The most important regulatory aspect of Wimax is the availability of spectrum. The government plans to allocate the 2.3-GHz band for the Wimax 16.e standard while 3.3-GHz will be used for the 16.d standard.

He explains that with the geographical condition of more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia plans to harness Wimax to provide broadband links to remote areas and to narrow the digital divide.

'The technology will provide rural and other hard-to-service areas with better telecommunications services at a lower cost compared to other technologies,' he says.

Wimax is being heralded by the industry as the way to roll out broadband services wirelessly, given that around 80% of Indonesia's population lives in rural areas.

Today, some 70% of the country's population lacks access to telecoms services. By the end of last year, only 25 million were internet users, and only just over a million had a broadband connection. Wimax has the potential to transform this landscape.

The government has committed to prop-up its USO program by building out rural telecom networks and invited the operators to participate.

The government also is encouraging local companies to develop Wimax technology. Local companies, like Inti, Hariff and Indonesia Tower, are already on the bandwagon. 'Local vendors are expected to produce indigenous versions of Wimax systems at lower costs,' Suhono says.

Cooperating with Telkom and using the technology of Indonesia Tower, the government is carrying-out a Wimax trial for three month, starting in mid-October to provide internet broadband in the Bandung area.

Meanwhile, cellular operator Telkomsel has just completed a trial to combine Wimax with GSM IP-based technology.

Telkomsel's Yoseph Garo says that the combination will be more efficient in building the network to cover 90% of the population, compared with using only conventional BTS.

'If we use conventional BTS we need 1 billion rupiah [$100,000], while by combining these two-technologies we just need 100 million rupiah,' he says.

He says Wimax will be used as backhaul connectivity between the network core and femto BTS point-to-multipoint distribution nodes.

The trial is part of Telkomsel's program to develop its network in remote areas, one of its strategies to stay ahead as the market leader.

The program costs 50 billion rupiah ($5 million) and is intended to target 3,000 villages in the country this year.

Meanwhile, Nokia Siemens Networks' Arjun Trivedi says that Wimax technology will be one potential solution for Indonesia along with LTE technology, and the plan to deploy Wimax is the right option.

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