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WiMax Only Devices Won’t Work; Arbitrage Opportunity For VoIP Is Over

“WiMax only devices don’t work.” Citing the example of Spint in the USA, which switches users between WiMax and EVDO with a dual mode USB modem, Ravi Visvesvaraya Prasad, CEO of Telecom Industry Consultants said at the WiMax 2010 conference that telecom operators in India will have to deploy multi-modal devices, that will allow consumers to switch between WiMax, EVDO and HSDPA. The consensus, during last session of the day, which focused on a Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis of WiMax in India, was that consumers want Mobile Broadband, and don’t really care which technology is being deployed. WiMax only devices will fail where there isn’t sufficient availability, and consumers should be switched between the two. Another example cited by the panel, which included Sridhar Pai of Tonse Telecom, Vijay Madan, former Chairman and Executive Director of C-DOT and Dr. Rakesh Kushwaha, CTO and Founder of Mformation Technologies, was of AT&T which moves users to WiFi automatically when indoors, in order to take the load off wireless networks.

Some interesting comments on the Broadband Wireless Auction (BWA), which will follow the 3G auction currently taking place:

— There is an issue of overspending on Broadband Wireless Spectrum: if you’ve spend 80 percent on your money on the auction itself, it’s a recipe for disaster. Deployment and monetization of WiMax will take longer, since telcos will have less money to spend
— If some of the telecom operators do not get 3G spectrum in the ongoing auctions (our coverage here), there is a possibility that they will, in desperation, push the BWA auction price too high.
— Lets not get carried away with the hype: India doesn’t have the kind of spectrum-per-subscriber for operators that countries like Russia do

Sridhar Pai, CEO of Tonse Telecom said that some telecom operators might win,some lose, but it is clear that the Indian government will win. No one expected 600 million mobile subscribers, and there could be a temporary blip with the hype in the broadband, which is expected to be the next big thing. It’s not a good sign is big players get burnt, though. Pai also said that the arbitrage opportunity with VoIP is now gone, because the interconnect charges for terminating VoIP calls is too high, in comparison with the call rates prevalent in India.

So, I guess one shouldn’t expect VoIP to be WiMax’s killer app.

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Disclosure: MediaNama had a marketing partnership with the WiMax 2010 conference, organized by Virtue Insight.

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