Indian telecom operators plan to add hundreds of millions of broadband subscribers over the next two to five years, according to wireless broadband equipment vendor Samsung Electronics.
The aggressive plans by the Indian operators, including Mukesh Ambani owned Reliance Industries, have forced Samsung to raise by five-fold its global Wimax roll-out expectations - it now plans to have 200 million subscribers by 2012.
“We were initially expecting global Wimax numbers to reach 18 million by the end of 2011,” said Hung Song, global vice-president in charge of sales and marketing for Samsung’s telecom division. “But Indian broadband auction winners are talking about targets of adding 500 million subscribers by themselves,” he added.
Throwing its weight behind the computer industry-backed Wimax standard against the traditional telecom standard of LTE, Samsung is holding talks with Indian broadband spectrum holders to launch services immediately.
“The interest cost on the investment on a single slot of nationwide broadband spectrum is around $1.2 million per day (Rs 2,000 crore per year)... I don’t think anyone will wait for two years to launch services,” Deepak Bhatnagar, India head for network business, said.
The Indian wireless broadband industry is confused after many players won spectrum that can be used for launching services using the existing Wimax technology, or the more efficient TD-LTE-Advanced technology.
However, the LTE-Advanced standard is expected to be announced only by middle of next year, while the current Wimax standard was fixed five years ago. As a result, Wimax devices, including phones, are already in use in markets like the US while commercial grade LTE-Advanced equipment are expected no earlier than 2013.
“We have investments in both technologies.. but history says that it takes 4-5 years after the standards are set for the technology to become commercial. We can hurry it up, but it will still take at least 2-3 years for any technology,” Song said.
Samsung had become only the second device-maker, after HTC, to launch a Wimax phone in the US, home to the World’s largest Wimax network.
Song also said the next revision of Wimax, which will put the technology at par with LTE-Advanced, will be issued by the end of the current year. Unlike LTE, he said, the new version of Wimax will be commercialised within 8-10 months and will be backward compatible with the existing Wimax technology. In other words, consumers who buy existing Wimax dongles and phones will still be able to use them after an upgrade next year, Song said.