BSNL to invite tenders for setting up 50K WiMax kiosks

Public sector BSNL is set to issue tenders for setting up 50,000 Common Service Centres (CSCs) — ICT-enabled kiosks — across the country. This will be one of the largest deployment of WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) in the world, as these will be connected by wireless broadband (WiMax). All CSCs set up in the first phase used the traditional method of connecting to high speed internet and providing other ICT services via fibre cable.

Although the 3G spectrum policy (which includes WiMax) is yet to be unveiled by the government, DoT has sought communication minister A Raja’s approval to allocate WiMax spectrum to BSNL for this project. BSNL had informed the DoT that the tender documents were ready and the PSU was awaiting spectrum clearance for issuing the same. Sources said that BSNL would be allocated spectrum in the 2.5 GHz frequency band for its wireless broadband foray. The project is expected to be completed by August 08. These CSCs will primarily cater to semi-urban and rural areas across the country.

BSNL had earlier shortlisted two WiMax frequencies — 2.5 GHz and 3.5 GHz — for this project. Choosing the 2.5 GHz frequency band is in line with the global scenario. According to sources, during a recent meeting to review the status of the project, communications minister A Raja had directed BSNL to work “in co-ordination with the department of information technology in order to ensure that the project is completed within the time frame”. Following this, BSNL will soon convene a meeting of all circle heads in Delhi to address all implementation issues, sources added.

At the same time, BSNL’s plans for urban areas include the roll out of WiMax services in 70 cities across the country by mid 2008. The PSU will soon issue tenders estimated at Rs 1,000 crore for this project also. Sources added that a slew of companies, including Telsima Corp, Aperto Networks and Alcatel Lucent, had already expressed interest in bidding for the WiMax project in these 70 cities.

While WiMax is still an evolving technology, it is still considered a threat to third generation mobile services. As per global industry experience, WiMax offers data speeds that are 10-30 times faster than 3G. To put this in perspective, the data speeds of 3G networks are over five times faster than those offered by 2G cellular networks that telcos in India currently use.