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The convergence of BWA with cellular networks can promote the rapid development of a mass infocommunication market

31 июля 2006
Today’s Russian market is one of the most developed markets in the world, and cellular networks are being deployed in all regions of the Russian Federation. In May the subscriber base reached approximately 135 million people; SIM card penetration averages more than 90 percent. However, the Russian mobile market has reached saturation.

The rate of monthly subscriber growth is decreasing; currently it is at the same level as it was two years ago. This market saturation and the dramatic Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) loss have led to the introduction of new technologies and service range extensions. Content and additional services are becoming the most important means for increasing operators’ revenues.

To address this situation, 3G Association focuses its activities on new service market development in Russia, including network convergence, mobile TV, mobile payments, and MVNO. 3G Association has worked out a concept for market formation in Russia that identifies the conditions for creating a unified service environment and possibilities for interaction among operators, content, and service providers. BWA (broadband wireless access technologies) are one piece of the picture.

Currently, cellular networks provide comparable speeds of data transmission while providing opportunities for users that are note yet available for BWA networks, such as handover, roaming, and high-level information security. The unique advantage of BWA in such situations is the relatively small investment required in deploying and maintaining the network compared to cellular networks. However, such is true when the deployment of the BWA network is on the basis of an existing network infrastructure. In creating a BWA network from scratch, the required investments are comparable to those of a cellular network or even higher.

Today such convergence is one of the most common directions of telecom industry development. The convergence of cellular and BWA networks helps integrate the advantages of both in a unified network. In addition, BWA technologies enable cellular operators to provide broadband services relatively quickly with minimal costs, creating the grounds for implementing new generation technologies on the market. Such conversion also extends the services range considerably and prepares the market for 3G introduction.

Experts suggest that today’s BWA market in Russia is just starting; about 650 Wi-Fi hot-spots are in commercial use as well as 300 fixed BWA networks, but a lack of mobile BWA networks. Fixed BWA networks are operating in almost every Russian city, but the majority provides services for several hundred subscribers. Only the largest of these have a subscriber base of several thousands. In fact, BWA network subscribers in Russia number approximately 100,000 to 150,000 total.

Yet the number of BWA subscribers in Russia is expected to rise to 1.5 to 2 million by 2010. Leading Russian cellular operators are paying great attention to BWA technologies and the development of convergent networks since such a convergence would promote the rapid development of a mass infocommunication market in Russia.

At this point, when consumer demand and market scope are not quite determined, mobile BWA technologies can open new opportunities as well as create additional risks for BWA, cellular, and wired networks operators. Implementation specifics of mobile BWA networks should be revealed, and scientific proposals for its development—taking into consideration past foreign experiences as well as the unique Russian situation—should be prepared. The deployment of a trial area of mobile BWA networks would be the next rational step in this convergence process.

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