Interview

Broadbad the Need of All Markets : Tarvinder Singh, Motorola

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“WiMAX rollouts will begin with an aim to deliver high quality Internet Protocol (IP) data services to fixed and nomadic users, and over time grow the networks to support increasing levels of mobility” says Tarvinder Singh, Director Marketing & Product Management, Home & Networks Business, Motorola, to Nilakshi Barooah of egov magazine

The WiMAX Forum has projected that by 2012 India will have 27.5 million WiMAX users, which would be 20% of global WiMAX subscribers. What is your opinion on this and how are the telecom companies planning to tap this growth of WiMAX technology?

India today has about 4.6 million broadband connections in the country, which is a very small number by any standards. WiMAX as a technology allows you to have relatively faster penetration and is quick to deploy mainly because it is a wireless technology. Today, most of the broadband users are based on wireline networks in the form of Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) connections. However, we as a country have limited capacity to deliver DSL connections because there are not enough coppers assets in the ground to upgrade to broadband. India has about 40 million wirelines and not more than 10 million can be upgraded for broadband delivery. Therefore, the rest of the growth is dependent upon wireless netwaorks where WiMAX as a technology can play a significant role. The government has set a target of achieving 20 million broadband subscribers by 2010. One of the recent reports on WiMAX growth has projected a figure of approximately 28 million by 2012, but whether it is 20 million or 28 million, the fact of the matter is that the unserved demand is way above these projections. As the volume picks up, the services are going to be more and more affordable which will bring in more people under the broadband banner. A country like India should not target any less than 15 – 20 per cent broadband penetration in the coming few  years. Although, we are a long way from that today, we fi nally see initiatives that will  enable the country to vigorously pursue accelerated growth of broadband services.

Broadband is not the need of a specifi c market segment. It is not that broadband is needed  only for rural connectivity and not required for urban India. It is a need that sweeps across market segments. There are users in rural markets who need broadband as much as users in  urban markets, except the fact that the needs that one addresses may be different for each segment. These needs vary from impacting basic livelihoods by providing connectivity to  rural markets for helping these users migrate from a world of relative unawareness to being better connected with the power and access to information on the one hand all the way up to a  slew of personalised broadband solutions for anywhere anytime access on the go to information, entertainment and commerce applications.

The projections of WiMAX Forum are realistic and it is doable. It depends upon how soon we get  off the ground on a big scale as an Industry in India. The biggest hurdle till few days ago  was the availability of spectrum. We are hopeful that with the policy being recently  announced which will be soon followed by auctions, operators are likely to be in possession of  spectrum by the end of this year. Therefore, 2009 should begin to see operators going full  throttle towards building nationwide networks for delivering broadband to different sections  of the end users. India has shown tremendous success in terms of the cellular phone penetration, where we add more than 8 million subscribers per month. We now have an  opportunity to create a similar success story with broadband, for which, we believe, 16e based  mobile WiMAX rollouts will be the key.

Experts say that WiMAX combined with 3G technology will take broadband to the next level of growth. What are your comments on this statement.

In the Indian market context, we see 3G as an extension of the existing 2G voice services. With  5+5 Mhz of spectrum (1 WCDMA carrier) being made available to an operator, one can    certainly improve the current data services experience incrementally compared to that delivered on 2.5G systems currently operating, but I believe it is not going to be adequate to deliver world class true wireless broadband services. Operators will use 3G spectrum to create a head room for their voice capacity growth by migrating current higher end users to this spectrum, because this is where they are constrained right now with 2G. They will then, use  the capacity so created to continue adding voice subscribers without being capacity constrained, while at the same time improving in relative terms the service quality and data experience that will get delivered to users connected to the 3G network. With WiMAX, the   goal is to deliver a true multimedia broadband experience, superior to that delivered by all current day broadband services in India. WiMAX rollouts will begin with an aim to deliver high quality Internet Protocol (IP) data services to fi xed and nomadic users, and over time grow the networks to support increasing levels of mobility. While the 16e WiMAX technology is fully ready to support full mobile broadband services today, for the overall proposition to become affordable enough for mass market adoption will require price points to drop over time  as well as the eco-system of handheld devices to reach mass market infl ection point   levels. We see this progression over the coming 2-3 years from an India market standpoint.   Given the above views, these two technologies are going to be truly complementing each other in India.

Motorola has substantial number of contracts for WiMAX deployment systems with  customers in 16 countries. What are the factors that makes Motorola   preferable for WiMAX Projects?

Motorola is engaged with 80 customers across the world today. Of these engagements,  Motorola has 21 commercial contracts. Motorola’s success with WiMAX begins with its  commitment to the technology itself. The company has been investing in this technology for a  long time. We have amongst the highest number of contributions to the WiMAX standards.  Since the time the 16e WiMAX standards were being authored, Motorola played a key role in  the creation of those standards and continues to work as a key member of the WiMAX Forum  on the future evolution of the 16e standards for WiMAX. We have also made substantial contributions in productising this technology and have been amongst the fi rst vendors in the  market to have achieved WiMAX Forum wave 2 certifi cation for our 2.5GHz product thus  ensuring we bring products that not only fully comply with the WiMAX standards but also  allow for interoperability with certifi ed third party end user devices. Motorola’s legacy as a  corporation has been radio technologies and wireless. We are seen as a very credible radio  engineering company world over known for our competencies and innovations in this fi eld.  Given that credibility and our commitment and investments on ground with regard to  WiMAX, customers feel very comfortable in placing their business with Motorola as a trusted partner who can best deliver on their network and business expectations from investments in  WiMAX.

“Mobile WiMAX technology can be effectively used to serve fi xed, nomadic and full  mobile broadband requirements. An operator could begin with this version of  technology to build a fi xed broadband system to start with and then, over a period  of time, it can be evolved into different levels of mobility support, thus ensuring  total protection of network investments”

Tell us about Motorola’s Mobile WiMAX solution and its unique features. How will the Mobile WiMAX bring out communication revolution, especially in developing
countries?

Mobile WiMAX is the commonly used term for the 802.16e version of the WiMAX standards.  Mobile WiMAX technology can be effectively used to serve fi xed, nomadic and full mobile broadband requirements. An operator could begin with this version of technology to build a fi  xed broadband system to start with and then, over a period of time, it can be evolved into  different levels of mobility support, thus ensuring total protection of network investments.  Some operators can start small with fi xed users such as homes and offi ces and then serve  additional market segments such as customers with nomadic lives who carry their laptops  around the whole day, but want to have connectivity from wherever they are. Mobile WiMAX  serves all kinds of users depending upon their need in each of these situations. A user  in urban market wants to have instant access to information sitting anywhere. With 2G  spectrum, people have to struggle to get connected to the world wide web or one has no other  option but to get back to a place where some form of broadband connectivity exists. WIMAX provides an answer in such a situation making possible anywhere anytime access through wireless broadband connectivity.

802.16e WiMAX technology can also be used for fi xed broadband for rural areas. The question  of connecting Information and Communication Technology (ICT) kiosks with  broadband is an example of a fi xed broadband network being built on mobile WiMAX  standards which ensure maximum investment protection, lower cost of ownership and  superior performance .

Can you elaborate upon the possibility of your company’s
tie ups with mobile service providers in India for the WiMAX projects, especially in the rural areas?

The establishment of kiosks and Common Service Centres (CSCs) by the government in India  are aimed at connecting the unconnected. Most of these kiosks and CSCs will be located in  areas which are very cumbersome to connect with wireline access. Wireless medium is  therefore, the best option to reach to these kiosks. WiMAX can provide a means to provide  connectivity to these kiosks. There can be multiple kinds of services which can be available  under a kiosk, such as education, ticket booking, accessing information and land records.  WiMAX can play a central role in providing the connectivity between these kiosks and the central  data bases.

Motorola has been talking to several service providers in India on their WiMAX deployment  plans. Since the wait for spectrum seems to be soon coming to an end fi nally, we expect these  discussions to now proceed to the next level in anticipation of large network buildouts very shortly.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has recommended a review of the WiMAX policy recently announced by the government of India. How is the policy going to affect the telecom industry in India?

Motorola believes that both Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and Department of  Telecommunications, Government of India have been discussing broadband with all the  stakeholders before coming up with their own recommendations and the policy guidelines. We  are at a stage where we need to start moving forward and Motorola believes that the  policy announcements made recently are a great step in that direction.

The answer to the question regarding whether there is some scope for fi ne tuning in the  policy, is that there always will be a scope for the same. But as of today, the policy is in the right direction and is well aligned with the larger objectives for broadband access across India.

The end consumer will benefi t from this policy, because now it will become possible to make  large network investments and provide broadband services to this largely underserved market opportunity and need. The minimum quantity of spectrum per operator of 20MHz  TDD, and the spectrum band, i.e 2.5 and 2.3GHz are two very positive steps that would enable investments to fl ow into the arena of broadband wireless access. 3G is a logical  extension from the 2.5G networks especially for operators in parts of the country where their  2G and 2.5G networks are getting choked and not able to accommodate rapid growth that we are witnessing. Those networks certainly need immediate capacity relief which will be  provided through 3G in our opinion. This will still leave the opportunity to invest in WiMAX  for serving the data and broadband opportunity to new market segments. Thus, new revenue  streams will be created which will make the complementary use of 3G and WiMAX.

Pakistan has successfully deployed WiMAX in their country. Are there any lessons to be learnt from our immediate neighbour?

Pakistan got off to a good start with Wateen Telecom launching its services last year.    Pakistan’s market conditions are very similar to ours in many ways from a telecom perspective. They also do not have much wireline assets, so they rely upon wireless technologies to deliver services to the masses in a quick and cost effective manner. This is an identical situation when you compare it with India. Wateen’s 12 months of experience has shown that it is possible to run a very successful business case with mobile WiMAX and use it as an effective means to deliver broadband connectivity to people who had no form of connectivity whatsoever. The telecom company is now able to deliver voice and data services to as many as 40 million plus people by making their services within the reach of this population. This is a huge transition in a short span of one year and they continue to add newer cities to their footprint as they grow the user base each month.

I am confi dent that once India gets down with the rolling out of networks in a big way, we will  positively force the rest of the world to stand up and take note of such growth, as much as  the same way, the country demonstrated with cellular telephony.

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