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India gets closer to WiMAX auctions, with Samsung in hot pursuit

27 ноября 2009

Intel and AT&T were among the major foreign companies that attended a pre-bidding conference held by the Indian government, ahead of the 3G and WiMAX auctions planned to start in January. And the Department of Telecom indicated that it would look to open up several new bands, including 700 MHz for WiMAX and broadband wireless, soon after the end of the 3G sale.

One of the constant sources of speculation, throughout the tortuous process of getting the Indian spectrum auctions on track, has been whether foreign operators would look to gain a foothold - as some, such as Vodafone, DoCoMo and Telenor already have - or even whether vendors would want to participate in joint ventures or franchise agreements. In franchises, suppliers and carriers share risk and reward and they can give a vendor a chance to push its preferred technology.

At the conference, according to Indian newspaper Business Standard, a clearer idea could be gained of which firms are likely to bid for the new licenses. The established cellcos were prominent, notably Vodafone Essar, Bharti Airtel and Reliance, as well as some of the new entrant carriers which gained 2G spectrum last year, such as Uninor, STel and Datacom. Most of the foreign telcos that have been linked with Indian auctions, such as SKT and Telstra, did not show up, however. According to Economic Times, France Telecom and Cable & Wireless have confirmed that they will not take part in the sales.

The pre-bid conference was organised by the Department of Telecom to address concerns and queries of any interested players, but did not entirely fulfil its mission - there is still no decision on the important issue of whether the auction will be conducted for all four slots in each telecoms ‘circle’ or region, or just in those slots where spectrum is already available (some has not yet been vacated by incumbents such as the Departments of Space and Defense, a critical risk factor for the progress of 3G and WiMAX in India). The DoT said it would announce its finalized policy on December 8, the day it will also invite formal applications. “If the defense forces are able to vacate the spectrum by then, we would go ahead with the auction of all the four slots. Otherwise, only available spectrum would be auctioned,” said DoT joint secretary JS Deepak.

The DoT was unable to answer another pressing question - whether it would award the new licenses to successful bidders immediately, or whether there could be a delay, as there has been in 2G (some of the winners in recent auctions still have not received their licenses).

After the 3G and WiMAX auctions, further spectrum bands are expected to come up for sale “quickly”, said the DoT, though judging by the 3G experience this could mean several years of rulemaking and debate. The next bands are likely to be 800MHz to add more spectrum for CDMA players (but, unlike in GSM/W-CDMA and WiMAX, state-owned BSNL and MTNL will not have early access); 2.1 GHz and 2.3 GHz for WiMAX, once the latter has been vacated by space agencies; and then 700 MHz for WiMAX and other broadband wireless technologies.

Once the spectrum is actually freed up, India is expected to be the world’s largest market for WiMAX vendors, and all the majors are already conducting trials with different operators there, while BSNL and MTNL have deployed some networks and are working on their franchise relationships with suppliers like Telsima/Harris Stratex and SOMA. The big WiMAX vendors - Motorola, Alvarion, Samsung and Huawei - will all be looking for rich pickings from 2010 onwards, and the technology is perhaps particularly important to Samsung and Alvarion, which have little or no presence in 3G and LTE.

There is no logical need for vendors to choose between WiMAX and LTE, just as many sold both GSM and CDMA systems. But despite the two-pronged strategy of Motorola, Huawei and others, there is an increasing tendency for suppliers to major on one 4G platform or the other, the choice partly driven by the kind of operators they aim to sell to. Samsung, while not writing off its chances in LTE, clearly sees WiMAX as its best market, and as it makes steady progress across the world, its chief wireless marketing executive said it could be a bigger revenue source for the Korean firm than CDMA had been.

Just as WiMAX has often supported disruptive operators focused on alternative service models, so it can provide vendors with a chance to break into the GSM/3G citadel of Ericsson and the other European majors. Hung Song, VP of global marketing at Samsung Telecommunications, said in an interview with Telephony that early leaders in WiMAX could become major players in 4G. In the same way, in 2G and 3G, the biggest vendors stayed out of CDMA, allowing the likes of Samsung, Lucent and Nortel to thrive, he argued. However, from his own company’s point of view, he sees WiMAX as being a bigger opportunity, as its success in CDMA was limited mainly to its home country, and its handset business was the chief beneficiary.

Samsung may have won only about 10 CDMA network deployments, but it already has more than that in WiMAX, where it makes up the big four with Motorola, Alvarion and Huawei (its fellow suppliers to the technology’s flagship operator, Clearwire). Song said the company is in talks with about 40 providers about new Mobile WiMAX deals.

The largest of its existing customers are KT and SKT, the Korean cellcos, which are using the local WiMAX variant WiBro, and UQ Communications in Japan, a joint venture led by CDMA operator KDDI with backing from Intel and others. Samsung announced additional Mobile WiMAX contracts from UQ this week, for delivery early next year. The Korean firm has already built out the metro centers of Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.

Samsung also supplies kit to fast growing operator Yota and has also joined the WiMAX Innovation Network in Malaysia, led by YTL Communications - the program also includes Cisco, Clearwire and GCT Semiconductor, and is looking at roaming and collaborative development opportunities. YTL will launch commercial services in late 2010 using Samsung gear and IMS, though its launch will be well behind fellow Malaysian WiMAX player Packet One.

The vendor is also said to be one of several parties interested in a proposed WiMAX joint venture with Indian manufacturer ITI, which aims to attract foreign investment in three of its businesses, including 802.16 kit.

Song said in the interview that 90% of his global marketing efforts are spent on WiMAX today and about 10% on LTE, though this proportion could change if it makes headway in the newer technology - but he did not envisage a situation where LTE would be more than 30% or so of effort.


Источник: 4G Trends

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