BSNL goes live with first Mobile WiMAX network in India
Published: 14 December, 2009
The two 4G technologies continue to fight it out for the end-of-year headlines, and this week sees WiMAX scoring in two of the markets that are likely to make its fortunes in the coming decade, India and Indonesia, while the mobile heartland of western Europe continues to add to its LTE trials.
Despite spectrum auction delays and other bureaucracy, India is set to be the biggest base on earth for WiMAX by 2012, and state-owned carrier BSNL, which has pre-auction access to its spectrum, has gone live with the country's first Mobile WiMAX network. The company already has deployments using fixed WiMAX but now plans a major national roll-out based on 802.16e, and the first services were launched by the state minister for communications and IT in Rajasthan, Shri Sachin Pilot.
BSNL has two parallel projects, one for rural areas - which was being kicked off by Pilot - and one for metro networks. The company said; "Through this BSNL will usher in a new era of growth in rural areas. This technology offers broadband speed of 7Mbps at a distance of 15 kilometers. Also, it offers mobility in wireless broadband." Initially, access will be delivered to Common Service Centers since few people in rural districts will have personal computers or even power supply.
As well as bringing basic access to underserved communities - and helping to meet the Indian government's targets to reduce the country's woeful levels of broadband penetration - the operator plans to work with partners to enable several key applications. These include utility bill payments, issue of official documents like land or vehicle registrations or birth certificates, state e-government processes and inter-village communications. It also aims to harness video to support telemedicine and remote education. Broadband tariffs will be very low, starting at INR140 ($3) a month.
In the first phase, BSNL is covering 1,000 rural districts, 32 in Rajasthan, which will involve 11,500 Common Service Centers. Phase two will take the system across the nation, covering 50,000 CSCs. As well as government support, BSNL is drawing on financial and technical backing from other partners within the WiMAX community, notably Intel, which is providing chip technology for devices that will enable affordable services and accelerate uptake.
Another key market of huge population, but low broadband penetration (under 1% of citizens), is Indonesia, the world's third most populous state, and the WiMAX Forum has its sights set on making its technology the key to rapid internet growth. The body has launched its Indonesian chapter to get close to the government's goal of connecting 100m users to broadband by 2015.
The new chapter will promote WiMAX to government officials, regulators, operators and customers, in the wake of recent 2.3GHz spectrum auctions (there is already 3.3GHz spectrum allocated for WiMAX). The WiMAX Forum Indonesia (WFID) chapter's membership represents global players, and local ones, notably Mastel and Indonesia Wireless Broadband (ID-WiBB). The signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Forum and Mastel, the country's non-profit telecoms organization, in September sparked off the new activities.
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