'Confusion around spectrum is hurting WiMax deployment'

CIOL Bureau
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NEW DELHI, INDIA: The confusion around spectrum roll out is taking its toll on the wide scale deployment of WIMAX in the country, says Shankar Alimatti, VP Next Generation Networking, Tech Mahindra.

Tech Mahindra has worked with Freedom4 in UK (formerly Pipex) and is in active discussions with some of the operators worldwide including India and has participated in the VSNL bid for WiMax deployment.

Shankar Alimatti, VP Next Generation Networking, Tech MahindraShankar Allimatti,  feels WiMax is the best solution to bridge the last mile divide in a diverse country like Indiaprovided the impediments are sorted out in earnest.

“The confusion around spectrum is taking too long a time. Spectrum is in use by defense and vacating it is taking time. The frequency band needs to be cleared so that operators can quickly roll out WiMax services in the country”, says Alimatti.


An industry veteran, Shankar Allimatti has helped Tech Mahindra take a leadership position working with some of the Global Tier 1 Telecom Service Providers.

Shankar Alimatti, in an interaction with Idhries Ahmad of CIOL cites reasons why Tech Mahindra has faith in WiMax technology as the best bet to connect rural India.

Shankar adds meat to the argument as to why should operators need to invest in a relatively new technologies like WiMax when competing and well entrenched technologies like 3G HSPA are already on plate for operators in India


CIOL: Please brief us as to what Tech Mahindra is doing in the WIMAX arena?

Shankar Alimatti: Tech Mahindra is software solutions provider to the telecom industry worldwide, It offers an end-to-end portfolio of solutions and services to help deploy, integrate, maintain and support WiMax networks and applications for maximum efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Tech Mahindra has partnered with various equipment vendors and solution providers for offering end-to-end WiMax services, which include, system Integration, product development,  deployment, maintenance and support.


We are also involved in managed Services, testing - functional, conformance, integration and performance, applications development, enhancement, porting, management and support.

CIOL: Who are the major operators that you are working with and please share some of experiences when it comes to roll out of WIMAX services? What are the major projects you are working currently in India?

Shankar Alimatti: Tech Mahindra is in active discussions with some of the operators worldwide including India and has participated in the VSNL bid.

We noticed that the WiMax subscriber base is still in thousands. Revenues are limited. Mobile WiMax is expected to change the scenario, interoperability issues.

Why do you feel WIMAX is the solution to bridge the last mile divide. Why do you see WIMAX as a superior broadband technology?  

Shankar Alimatti: WiMax’s popularity can be seen from the worldwide deployments that are happening. It is going to revolutionize the way people communicate.

WiMax is a part of the Wireless revolution – PAN, WLAN, MAN and WWAN and covers the city limits (MAN). It offers high throughput – upto 75 Mbps. Advancements in the antenna technologies have lead to even higher data rates with mobility.


WiMax has very strong security features built into the standard itself. Users are expected to get true high speed broadband Quality of Service with Security which wasn’t possible earlier.

According to Maravedis, the total numbers of mobile subscribers as of Oct 2007 were approximately 217 million with a growth rate of 6.61 million users / month. This high growth market is witnessing low ARPU figures of 298 Rs. / month. The demand for Internet access is growing exponentially touching 11.5 million subscribers as of October 2007.  This number is expected to grow to 21 million by 2014 with a large share by Mobile WiMax.


CIOL: What are the challenges you see in the roll out of WIMAX in India. What are the major deterrents in India for bridging the last mile divide?.

Shankar Alimatti: Spectrum is a huge challenge and once the confusion is not cleared we wouldn’t see large scale deployment of this technology.  The confusion around spectrum is taking too long a time. The frequency band needs to be cleared so that operators can quickly roll out WiMax services in the country.

Again I see cost of WiMax devices higher initially but can be taken care off when the technology sees massive deployment. Availability of WiMax enabled devices and applications could prove an major impediment.

Working towards making the spectrum available for WiMax should be priority. Currently the spectrum is in use by Defense and vacating it is taking time

What do you see as the evolution path for WIMAX? In terms of cost, how is WIMAX placed when compared with other technologies

Shankar Alimatti: Like other standards, the evolution path of Mobile WiMax is defined and current version is Mobile WiMax R2 or 802.16m. It is slated to be standardized in 2008. 802.16m is expected to provide higher throughput (peak Downlink speeds of 350Mbps, UL 200 Mbps) and low latency (<20 ms) with mobility support up to 350km / hour

The combined effect of large scale deployments, falling prices of CPEs and availability of WiMax enabled devices would help in faster adoption of this technology. Analysts believe WiMax costs would be lot more cheaper than other technologies (devices, cost of the service, spectrum cost) although the cost of the network depends on the configuration.

 How do you see it competing with other technologies like 3G HSPA? or are WCDMA/HSPA and WiMax not competing but rather complementing technologies.

Shankar Alimatti: 3G is optimized for voice while WiMax is optimized for data, WiMax is a good cost proposition of compared to 3G or other technologies. It is proven technology for data and voice. The cost of implementing 3G is very high and WiMax gives better bandwidth at much less the cost. 3G HDSPA is again costly technology compared to WiMax.

WiMax technology performs at about 2.5 times the speed of HSDPA platforms. I see WiMax and LTE likely to converge and be complementary technologies rather than competing. WiMax can be connected to th3G at the edge and consistency shall remain the same.

CIOL: The biggest obstacle in the way of rural infrastructure expansion from the service provider's perspective is less RoI and high Capex and Opex. In India the ARPU for a rural user is considerably low when compared to an urban user. In this light what are opportunities for service providers to expand their portfolio in rural India

Shankar Alimatti: Bring out applications for people living in rural India. Operators need to exploit the existing network and focus more application which would help people see benefits of technology.

Application in areas of education, telemedicine, community development. Also operators need to look at Capex investments by the equipment providers.