The India end of the WiMAX Forum, hosted earlier this week in Delhi, a rare coming together of almost every major telecom player who has a stake in the ongoing auction of 3G and WiMAX broadband spectrum . With 60 MHz of WiMAX spectrum ready and another 20 MHz,in the offing, both in the 2.3 GHz band, this was the best broadband bet for India said C.S. Rao, Chairman, WiMAX Forum India. With current numbers of broadband connections so modest – less than 10 million with some 60 million active Internet users – there was clearly plenty of ‘headroom’ for growth.
Sriram Viswanathan, Vice President and General Manager, WiMAX Program Office, Intel, said WiMAX was the ‘right connection’ for India’s future’, “We need something that works now – not three or four years from now”, he added, a seeming reference to still nascent technologies like Long Term Evolution or LTE.
The panel of telecom equipment manufacturers consisted by Motorola, represented by Ray Owen, APAC Head of Technical Marketing and Pre-Sales; Huawei Telecommunications India’s Executive Director A.Sethuraman; Steven Cui, CTO of ZTE India and Hung Song, Vice President, Global Marketing Group, Telecom. Systems, Samsung.
Moderating the panel A. Paulraj, Emeritus Professor at Stanford University and a key inventor of the WiMAX Multiple In Multiple Out or MIMO technology, said the Indian government had not specified a particular technology for the broadband rollout—assuming perhaps that wireless carriers will make technology based on cost and performance factors, which are also well aligned with interests of the Indian public. However, when spectrum bidders are not traditional carriers but promoters of a particular technology motivated by long term revenue extraction the government cannot remain a neutral bystander. The freedom of choice in technology should not become a “free for all”.
The panel of carrier players moderated by Sriram Viswanathan included Hansup Lee, Vice President, Mobile Network Data, Korea Telecom and P.S. Tang, Managing Director, Packet One, Malaysia. Mike Sievert, Chief Commercial Officer, Clearwire and Todd Rowley, Vice President, 4G/WiMAX with Sprint, joined from the US by a video linked fuelled by ( guess what!) . Tang was candid about the challenge that WiMAX operators faced -- when customers conditioned by voice line quality of cellular networks tended to expect the same from what was a technology that was optimal as a data carrier. Rowley said Sprint had just launched a $ 40 per month unlimited WiMAX plan in the US that was its most popular offering.
Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister, also joined by video link from Chicago to reiterate that the Public Information Infrastructure will be the key driver to ensure that India had 100 million broadband connections in 3 to 5 years. April 20 2010