WiMax in India

And there is a considerable degree of excitement about that.

It was in April 2001 that the WiMax group was constituted.
Today, the world over, WiMax is undergoing 200 trials and has been deployed in
40 places commercially. In India, Aircel, Sify, and Microsense have already
launched or have conducted experiments with WiMax services.

Compare this to 3G. It was in 2001 that the first commercial
WCDMA 3G became operational in Japan. There are 190 3G systems in operation
globally. In India, though, we are yet to feel the impact of 3G.

WiMax-Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access-technically
falls under the 4G category. So as WiMax confidently marches ahead, it’s only
but natural that doubts are being raised about the viability of 3G. After all,
3G promises a maximum bit rate of 2 Mbps, while WiMax offers 100 Mbps. The 3G
range is 1-5 miles, while WiMax easily spans that much in a line-of-sight
condition, and using reflectors in a non line of sight scenario, can sweep
across 30 miles. What is getting lost in the clamor of all this is that the IEEE
802.16 standard that is being propagated by the WiMax Forum, is not primarily
meant to be pitted against 3G for mobile data services. The original standard,
802.16d, was designed for last-mile broadband connectivity. And a later version,
802.16e, was devised for mobile wireless access.

The most
exciting thing about WiMAX is the speed and range enhancements that are
possible. 100 Mbps is a great speed to drool for considering that at
present we work with 512 Kbps-or lower-on wireless circuits

Confused? So would be the consumer if he bothered about all the
jargon he is wooed with. Thankfully, many users just concentrate on the basics.
What can the new product or service do for me?

The most exciting thing about WiMax, or any of the ‘equivalent’
technologies, is the speed and range enhancements that are possible for wireless
connectivity. 100 Mbps is a great speed to drool for considering that at present
we work with 512 Kbps-or lower-on the wireless circuits. And the enhanced
range of up to 30 miles and not limited by line of sight means easier access,
especially in remote locations.

If India aims to have 80 mn phones, or one phone for every two
households by 2010, WiMax is a good bet. And the target of 20 mn broadband
subscribers by 2010, can easily be met with WiMax. In 2005, WiMax was still
being looked at with suspicion with respect to prohibitive infrastructure costs.
Not anymore. Last year, Texas Instruments and Tata Elxsi announced their launch
of cost-effective base band demo system for mobile WiMax to be adapted into base
station solutions. Aperto has completed the deployment of WiMax-class broadband
system in sixty-five cities for VSNL. And now BSNL is expected to announce is
tender for WiMax equipment for 1,000 cities any time now, for deployment which
is reported to start in September. Pune is offering basic WiMax at Rs 250 for a
256 kbps connection. Cost, in 2007, definitely is not a roadblock for WiMax.

It is exciting that there is so much more bandwidth on the way-without
making a dent in the pocket. And as a customer it does not matter to me whether
it comes from WiMax or anything else by any other name. Major limitations to
technology usage have always been power sources and wires. They chain you down
and put limitations on usage. Sometimes I wonder why batteries have not improved
at the rate that chips have. To me anything that aids mobility is good news. It’s
time to finally shake hands with technologies that seem to be on the right pace-with
respect to technology, industry initiatives and government support. Now if we
could get the spectrum issue sorted out…

The author is editor-in-chief of CyberMedia, the publisher of Dataquest.
He can be reached at shyamm@cybermedia.co.in

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