India Excludes ISPs From WiMax Auction

The DoT’s recent decision effectively excluding ISP bids for WiMax spectrum resurrects memories of India’s past flights of fantasy. The fantasy this time around is the cellular operator’s commitment to nationally deploy 2.5 GHz spectrum for wireless broadband on WiMax and not hoard it or sneak it for 3G use should – if the DoT has its way – they be given both.

This is yet another kick-in-the-teeth for Indian ISPs as the nation still has a chastity belt around VoIP disallowing interconnection with the public fixed and mobile telephone networks. Now the punch-drunk Internet providers are barricaded from WiMax in what can only be a total flight from logic.

If the DoT really wants to have an actual, functional, no nonsense ubiquitous mobile truly “wireless broadband” service that allows the country Spectrum Email to somewhat retain burnish on the “India Shining” plaque at the door, then the guy to deliver it is the one with no vested interest in legacy air interfaces engendering mobility.

Meaning, keep the cellular establishment away from WiMax because they’ll do everything with it but provide a no-nonsense ubiquitous mobile truly wireless broadband service that cannibalizes existing revenues and kills those hot 3G dreams.

In fairness our incumbent and cellular friends (same difference) would use WiMax for backhaul, meaning it’s a great way to connect base stations back to the mother ship while customers continue connecting to these base stations over existing cellular air interface investments. They’d also use WiMax to provide fixed wireless local loops (WLL) into homes in another area they consider relatively unexciting compared to cellular’s mother lode. Remember how Reliance sneaked cellular to the public in the guise of WLL? It was cellular mobility Reliance coveted not boring old fixed wireless local loops. And it’s WiMax’s vaunted mobility the cellular establishment wants to keep out of ISP reach and away from the user.

Keeping it real I’d probably do the same in cellular shoes. The Internet is synonymous with freebies, long distance and fixed line voice revenues are going that way too with the only telecom real estate left making money being inside the cell phone. You put a WiMax broadband eight-lane highway into the cell phone and there goes that walled garden.

No one asks the cellular establishment be denied spectrum for wireless broadband. Let them keep their existing chunks of 3.5 GHz admirably suited for WLL but don’t waste 2.5 GHz or 2.3 Ghz which god gave to engender mobility over wireless broadband footprints. Assign that mission to the ISPs.

Globally, the cellular establishment goes to incredible lengths to protect legacy investment and eschew air interfaces that lend themselves more naturally to Internet access. No reason to think their Indian chapter will do anything other than prevaricate thus until legacy costs are fully amortized and beyond. Consumers are to pay for cellular airtime until the establishment’s books cease demanding tithe. Until that happens, no video, YouTube or VoIP access is going to be efficiently allowed on to your mobile phone.

3G is the cellular establishment’s answer to broadband and they’ve already spent US$150Billion globally on licenses and similar change on deployment. Why would the Indian cellular establishment go with anything else? More so because tried and tested equipment is available today to make 2G & 3G networks appear seamless. WiMax is a totally different technology and while roaming is possible, it calls for a completely different outlook to providing what is essentially a very data centric service – somthing the cellular operator is not comfortable with as yet, unlike the ISP for whom it is his very bread & butter. Just a look at the imprecations cast at WiMax mobility by the august cellular lobby suggests their love for any technology other than 3G may not be all encompassing.

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