Rediff Logo Infotech Banner Ads Find/Feedback/Site Index
Septeber 10, 1998


Universal Wireless Communication Consortium meets

Madhuri Velegar K in Bangalore

Email this story to a friend. The conference was aligned to specifications. About a select 200 invitees, including vendors and operators of wireless technology products and services, attended the CII-Universal Wireless Communication Consortium Microconference here at the Oberoi Hotel.

Phone tariffs reworked
Taskforce on hardware
Wireless industry meet
The task at hand was to focus on the nomadic customer. A customer who wants to primarily communicate with friends and family and for business purposes. He requires an instrument that provides him the broadest service area, whose service is simple, cost effective and works the same everywhere, every time.

The subjects debated included relevance of adopting wireless technology, specifically 'wireless in local loop'. WLL allows communications connection to the home from the network, plus mobility.

The issue of government monopolies and the importance of making the right choice of technology suitable to the unique needs of the country were also discussed at the one-day seminar this week.

Interrupted by caffeine and tobacco breaks, the seminar was snowed under with questions from the participants by mid morning.

After a short lunch by the poolside, the conference highlighted the salient features of the technologies available in the market today.

The emphasis was on TDMA IS 136, a technology that according to most businessmen in the room, is the most versatile, cost-effective and flexible for adoption in the India environment.

Universal Wireless Communication Consortium was launched in 1995 as a collaborative effort among leading vendors and operators of wireless products and services. These included AT&T Wireless, BellSouth Cellular, Ericsson, Hughes Network Systems, Lucent Technologies, Motorola, Noika Mobile Phones, Nortel, Philips Consumer Communications, Sun Microsystems, Industar Digital PCS and Southwest Bell Systems.

The UWCC initiative came at such a time that it helped deliver an enhanced portfolio of global mobility services across all spectral, market and subscriber bands.

The platform for developing and delivering such an enhanced personal communications features package to subscribers worldwide comprises ANSI TIA IS-136 standard version of 'time division multiple acess' or TDMA radio frequency features in combination with enhanced Internet working and mobility of the IS-41 'wireless intelligent network', or WIN standard capabilities.

Of course, the issue about which technology is better, the TDMA or the CDMA, 'code division multiple acess', which also offers the latest in wireless communications that integrates voice, date and video on terrestrial, semi-terrestrial and cellular networks, raised a few sparks with UWCC members. The felt that "the CDMA is not fully capable of giving enhanced features while the TDMA is also programmed for offering third-generation services which call for huge speeds".

Where does India stand today? The Department of Telecommunications is readying itself to accept bids for basic telephony in various states.

N K Sinha, member, technology, Telecom Commission, said in his inaugural address: "Of an unprecendeted advancemnet in technology, specifically in telecommunications. We're on the threshold of developing a customer access network that uses wireless technology. It won't be a replacement for POTS (plain old telephone services) but a cost effective, lease line digital service with Internet access."

Though Sinha spoke of a wireless nirvana, the ground realities were felt sharply by a few members in the auditorium. "Unless we improve the basic telephone infrastructure, provide a telephone for every man, woman and child, speaking of high-density, spohisticated features and services is irrelevant," says Kumar S Dasgupta, chief executive, telecom projects, RPG Enterprises.

The pathway for India to take would be, according to Larry Wood, senoir network architecture specialist, Asia Pacific, mobile systems, american standards, Ericsson, "To move beyond the pilot and case studies conducted to educate the DoT and send the decision makers to countries all around the globe where this technology has been commercially viable."

Ericsson Communications Private Limited, in conjunction with DoT, has undertaken a pilot project by setting up a five-line TDMA based telephone exchange in Bangalore wherein subscribers can call and use services of voice transfer, date transfer and fax facilities, all of them connected to the network using WLL technology.

In Maharashtra, Hughes Network Systems, with Ispat Limited, has another pilot project underway that offers basic service licence.

Keary Cannon from Hughes Network System states: "We're planning 110,000 lines of WLL by end of year 2000 in addition to fibre and wired services."

The HNS has deployed initial systems in central Bombay and in Pune with V5.2 interface to NEC switches. The TDMA WLL system will provide voice, date, fax, wireless and Internet access.

While the Indian speakers from the government were not so forthcoming about details of how and when the infrastructure first and technology second will be in place. In fact they asked for proposals from the participants of this conference. And our counterparts from the US and Europe had a sleeve full of ideas to share.

Fredric J Hibbler, vice-president, Operations UWCC, says: "The driving forces behind growth and adoption of wireless technology in the US and in India will be very different. While it has been convenience that has been the motivating factor in North America and Canada, it has been necessity for South America and for India which will push them towards being wireless."

The initial stage of confusion about which technology should we adopt and which will have long-term benefits and which will be cost effective and most important and which will be simple to deploy, will remain in India for a while as it did even in the US for a few years.

And whenever there is a monopoly player, says Larry Wood, the situation is not very good because they do not understand technology, which should be left to businessmen to decide. All that is needed is a free and open gateway which allows private users to enter the field and gauge the operation themselves.

The market forces should be allowed to ultimately decide on which technology should be adopted and how, says Wood.

In the US, the market is moving towards third generation deployment of technology services. Kailas Rao, an independent entrepreneur and chairman and president of Industar Digital PCS shared his experiences in reaching where he is today: He has established a highway where he ensures a lot of traffic (information) passes and he collects a lot of dimes as a fee for the same. "There are innumerable areas and business models to wireless technology, it's not just wireless voice transfer but wireless date transmission, wireless inventory control, wireless scanners, wireless remote-meter reading, wireless remote-time machines, a variety of applications that will benefit the customer, and make his life more productive, creative and prosperous.

Larry Wood says almost the same thing. Why can't the Indian government realise the importantce of merging with other wireless service providers around the globe and earn some good money? "For instance, the phone I use in Hong Kong has the GSM technology installed so whenever I move around the globe, I can access the same GSM base and make and receive calls in that country. But though the Indian government has mandated this technology, it does not have any mergers or partnerships with them anywhere around the world.

There are many visitors and travelers like me who will pay (the Indian government) to make and receive calls or use any of the value-added services while I am staying in this country.'

The driving force for adoption of wireless technology both in the West and in India would be three-fold according to Umesh Amin, director Technology and Service Planning- Wireless Strategy Group AT&T.

One, it will be a market driver. What is that people want? Two, it will make money or how long do I wait before I get a return on my investment and three, competition, a company that enters late adopts a different technology and asks the subscribers to come to them, they have something different.

In the US, wireless technology is extremely advanced and they are dealing with a mature market today, say the experts. Except in the data field, offers Wood. As the Internet and the IP markets are growing at a phenomenal rate and here's where the third generation services will become important.

Hibbler also asserted that the two biggest services that people request for in the US are colour ID and voice mail. "We're becoming more nomadic and roaming is the hot seat of all activity today. We're trying to get roaming agreements with all important carriers around the world."

It's also a step recommended for India. Mergers and tie-ups with service carriers around the world, as Wood says, "there's a convergence of technologies taking place around the world. You have cable companies offering telephone services and Internet services, telephone companies offering cable services and vice-versa, long distance players jumping to niche segments and local markets going global that mergers and MoUs are an important step forward in this industry.

The bottom line, say the experts, is to make agreements where systems are already in place; hit the roaming end. Because it's only when you enter you will find markets opening up and an increase in demand.

Another cautionary word is: Don't worry about technology, businessmen will do that. When the government steps in to set a mandate, the process is long, and in many cases it ends up mandating something which may not be the best business model.

So whether you are in India or the US, only two things matter, to provide a service and to make money. Governments are not professionals. They must back out.

Learn from the experiences not just of the US, but dynamic case studies where wireless technology using the TDMA has successfully worked, Indonesia, Sau Paulo in Brazil, Russia, and do not make the same mistakes that they did. Reinventing technology is a costly affair, reinvent the market forces, find what your customer needs and give him that.

For once when he is hooked, he will pay the price to have that piece of value in his daily life. Like Anil Raj, chairman and president Ericsson Communications Private Limited, put it, "you can do almost anything with just one phone, and one telephone number. Use it at home, when you go to office, use it from there, and use it practically in any country you roam.'

As the evening drew to a close, the mobile phones stopped playing the Sare jahan se achha tune and vendors, operators and manufactures stepped outside for some hors d'oeuvre and drinks, with fresh ideas, new models and a clearer understanding of how wireless can change our lives.

Tell us what you think of this story