Wimax on the fast track

10 Mar 2008

When Intel's chairman Craig Barrett was in India in 2006 and predicted that Wimax would address 'the issue of a widening digital divide,' he knew what was coming. India is now increasingly adopting Wimax to bring in more cost-effective connectivity to rural and remote areas.

Reliance already offers Wimax services to retail customers while Aircel, in which Malaysia's Maxis has a stake, has rolled out Wimax services to enterprise customers in the southern port city of Chennai.

BSNL announced in January a large-scale Wimax rollout capable of serving 250 million people in three states with a downstream speed of 1.5 Mbps. The operator is partnering with Soma Networks in a revenue-sharing deal.

Early this month Tata Communications announced plans to deploy a Wimax network covering 123 cities with Telsima, a developer and provider of Wimax access services. The company is backed by VCs such as NewPath Ventures and Intel.

Tata is investing $100 million in fiscal 2008 and another $500 million to $600 million over the next four to five years. The operator, which already has 5,000 enterprise and retail Wimax customers in ten cities, plans to sign up 200,000 retail customers in fiscal 2008.

'Given the pent up demand for broadband internet access, this Wimax network deployment has the potential to accelerate the adoption of true broadband services by thousands of businesses and millions of consumers in a short period time,' said Yankee Group's chief strategy officer Berge Ayvazian.

As the government moves to release more Wimax spectrum, competition in the infrastructure space is heating up. Apart from Telsima and Soma Networks, equipment suppliers like Motorola, Nortel and Samsung have been active in the Indian market. In the CPE area, almost 20 players such as Zyxel, Asus and Gemtech are vying for a piece of the expanding market.

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