`Talk of leapfrogging to 4G misses the point'

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Nokia Siemens Networks tells eWorld why it thinks so.

Ashish Chowdhary
Ashish Chowdhary

Thomas K Thomas

Ashish Chowdhary recently took over as Head of India Sub-region for the merged Nokia Siemens Networks.

With strong competitors such as Ericsson and Chinese manufacturers vying for a larger share of the booming Indian telecom equipment market, Chowdhary has his work cut out to lead the recently merged network arms of Nokia and Siemens.

eWorld caught up with him for his views on various issues, including the battle between 3G and WiMAX. Excerpts:

Do you think the India telecom growth story is sustainable? What are the factors that point to a continued robust growth for the sector?

We strongly believe the India growth story has just begun. If you look at the number of mobile and broadband subscribers and just general access to telecommunications infrastructure, the levels are still extremely low even when compared to some of the other emerging markets.

The overall tele-density is still under 20 per cent and in rural areas under 2 per cent. The broadband subscriber base stands at a mere 2.21 million subscribers.

India is now at a stage where it has achieved critical subscriber mass to drive the next wave of telecom growth, which will see the power of mobile and broadband communications delivered to rural consumers, market segmentation strategies to deliver greater value and adoption of latest technologies to deliver converged services by operators and demand for a host of new rich communication and entertainment-based services from the consumers. It will also see India emerge as a global manufacturing and services hub.

The critical mass was important to build economies of scale in network equipment and devices' prices, establish strong competitive service providers and create a robust local telecom ecosystem to address the local and global demand.

Any areas of concern that may spoil the party?We don't foresee any concerns. The most important sign to watch is the inclination of the Government and the Indian Government clearly recognises that access to telecommunications is essential for social and economic development and has done well to liberate the sector and foster growth.

3G spectrum policy and pricing seems to be the only major pending issue, which will also be addressed adequately soon. Overall, the Government has the right outlook and approach to the sector.

Do you think India has missed the 3G bus? Has the delay had any impact?I don't agree that India has missed the 3G bus. 3G as a technology has evolved but local operators' investments will be consumer-need based. So the decision to have a GPRS/EDGE, 3G or HSPA network will depend on consumer segmentation and services strategy of operators.

It's important to remember that 3G is the foundation for building future high-capacity IP-based networks for providing mobile and broadband services. It is the first and necessary step in the evolution journey to technologies such as HSPA (high speed packet access) and LTE (long term evolution), among others.

How do you see the future of WiMAX as a technology for mobility? Do you agree with the view that India should leapfrog to 4G?

Before going on to 4G, it is important to understand the components of 4G. At the heart of the 4G experience are all-IP end-to-end mobile networks based on open systems.

These networks will emerge from several different sources. WiMAX has emerged out of the IEEE 802.16 committee, Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service (UMTS), SAE/LTE out of the Third-Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). It is expected that all these technologies together will serve as the basis for 4G networks. The base technologies, i.e. 3G and WiMAX, need to be successfully deployed and integrated seamlessly before we can expect to upgrade the network to 4G.

Therefore, the view of leapfrogging to 4G experience lacks clear understanding of the concept of 4G. The future of WiMAX lies in the fact that it can prove to be an essential building block in meeting demand for wireless broadband. We believe that WCDMA/HSPA and WiMAX are not competing but rather complementing technologies.

No one technology is superior and it's only the environment, application and business case that are the key deciding factors for choosing the appropriate technology.

For example, operators who are already committed to GSM/EDGE/WCDMA/HSPA/LTE (3GPP Evolution) by having deployed GSM/EDGE networks may find it most efficient to offer broadband access and higher voice capacity through WCDMA/HSPA/LTE.

At the same time they also have the option to complement their existing network with WiMAX. Moreover, this would be very advantageous for end users as the majority of high-end terminals in the market already support WCDMA/HSPA.

On the other hand, new greenfield operators who have not committed to any evolution path may prefer nation-wide WiMAX based networks to offer both voice and data services through the WiMAX network.

What is the vision you have for Nokia Siemens in India over the next few years?Nokia Siemens Networks has unparalleled capability to deliver `end-to-end' convergent solutions based on a broad portfolio of fixed and mobile infrastructure products, services and devices. It is underpinned by a strong presence in the growing services market, a powerful global R&D team, and a large global installed base.

In India, Nokia Siemens Networks starts with a strong position in the GSM, services and fixed line segments. Our vision is to be ideally positioned to help local customers capture opportunities arising out of a growing connected community locally and globally.

Over the next few years, focus in India will be to grow our market share as we consolidate our existing footprint among local operators and build up strategic partnership with the new entrants. And the key differentiator will be our end-to-end technology solutions and strong execution capabilities. With our world-class product portfolio and global capabilities, we also look forward to support the rollout of new technologies, for example . WiMAX, 3G, etc, in India.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 7, 2007)
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