Indian WiMAX winners can offer voice, says DoT

Ken Wieland, Contributing Editor

August 28, 2008

2 Min Read
Indian WiMAX winners can offer voice, says DoT

India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has proposed that winners in the upcoming licence auctions for broadband wireless access (BWA) – read mobile WiMAX – will be able to offer voice as well as data services.

But the dispensation comes at a price. Instead of calculating the BWA licence reserve price at 25 per cent of the 3G licence reserve price on a per MHz basis, the DoT has proposed, following recommendations made by the Telecom Commission, that BWA licence winners pay at least 50 per cent of the base 3G licence cost.

3G licence auctions are scheduled for later this year.

This means the reserve price of a pan-Indian BWA licence, if the new guidelines are adopted, would rise from Rs505 crore ($115m) to Rs1010 ($230m).

Establishing the 3G and BWA licensing guidelines in India has been a long and fractious process with the respective lobby groups of the WiMAX and cellular camps frequently clashing.

While the addition of voice is no doubt a boost to WiMAX prospects, supporters of the technology will no doubt baulk at the premium price tag. The WiMAX Forum had already stated before the latest DoT announcement that it was working with the Indian government to try and reduce the BWA reserve prices that were calculated at 25 per cent of the 3G price.

By contrast, the cellular camp believes the DoT hasn’t gone far enough in its latest proposal. “The WiMAX lobby had argued that reserve price should be lower to enable them to make broadband services affordable. If they are allowed to offer voice services also they should be treated at par with existing mobile operators bidding for 3G spectrum,” a GSM industry representative is quoted in local press report.

Earlier this month DoT announced that 40MHz in the 2.3GHz band and 40MHz in the 2.5GHz band would be made available for BWA. In the 2.5GHz band, 20MHz has already been set aside for state operators BSNL and MTNL. The remaining 60MHz is to be auctioned to three more operators who are allowed 20MHz each.

Prospective 3G operators will be allowed to bid for one pair of 5MHz channels only: 5MHz in the 1920-1980MHz frequency band and 5MHz at 2110-2170MHz.

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