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India plots 3G, WiMAX road map

Posted: 05 Aug 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:India 3G service? WiMAX? 3G license auction?

Foreign companies will be allowed to bid for 3G and WiMAX licenses in India, according to the spectrum guidelines released Aug. 1.

Wireless licenses will be auctioned and the process is expected to be completed in several months, officials said. Up to five operators will be selected to provide wireless services in each coverage area. Five additional operators may be allowed to operate in each region, according to A. Raja, federal minister for telecommunications and information technology.

Government-owned service providers, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), will each receive a license, gaining a head start of several months over competitors in rolling out 3G services.

The government's surprise announcement heartened CDMA operators who worried that the guidelines would only cover GSM services in the 3G market. The GSM version of 2G services here were launched about three years before CDMA. At least two CDMA operators will be allowed to offer 3G services in each license area. The licenses will last 20 years.

Indian spectrum in the 2.1GHz band was designated for 3G services, with as many as 10 blocks available for auction in each region. "The actual number of blocks to be auctioned in a service area will be announced well before the auction," the Department of Telecommunications said in a statement.

Spectrum for EVDO data services will be auctioned in the 450- and 800MHz bands, and eventually in the 1,900MHz band, the statement said. Auctions will be overseen by an agency to be appointed by the Indian government.

Winning a 3G license is just the first step in the Indian rollout, said Deepak Kumar, head of communications research at IDC India. "The ability to roll out 3G services in three to four months time after winning a bid would be great, but anything more than six months could be a dampener."

"Operators will have to be really careful with their bids as they will not be able to pass on the costs to users," added Madhusudan Gupta, a communications analyst at Gartner. "We expect commercial launches to happen in the first half of next year."

BSNL has already joined with hardware vendors such as Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, ITI and Huawei, and hopes to roll out 3G services within the next six months, said Kuldeep Goyal, BSNL's chairman and managing director.

With trials completed, MTNL expects to initially roll out 3G services in New Delhi over the next three to four months, said R.S.P. Sinha, MTNL's chairman and managing director.

"I expect some pockets in the country to have WiMAX earlier than 3G as private operators such as Reliance, Tata and Bharti have been aggressive on this front," Gartner's Gupta said.

- K.C. Krishnadas
EE Times

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