WiMAX services may be only for existing telcos

WIMAX services in India will be restricted to only existing telecom operators if the Department of Telecom (DoT) has its way. In fact, the DoT has also decided to exclude internet service providers (ISPs) from its meetings on spectrum and policy related issues with regard to WiMAX. On the other hand, ISPs claim that they have equal rights to offer this service, a stance that is supported by Trai in its recommendations to the government on 3G spectrum-related issues.

ISPs have now demanded that they be made part of the working group constituted by the DoT (which has members from the Cellular Operators Association of India and the Global WiMAX Forum’s India office) and also be invited to all future meetings of this group.

The Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI), the body representing all ISPs, has also shot off a protest communication to the Wireless Planning Co-ordination (WPC) wing with regard to this issue stating:

“We learn that WPC organised a meeting of working group on the subject on August 1, 2007. We are surprised to note that ISPAI has been sidelined on such an important issue. ISPAI is an apex body of ISPs in the country and ISPs are the major stakeholder in WiMAX. ISPs are, as such, deprived of putting their views on this important subject. We request you to look in to the matter and ensure that ISPAI is included in the working group.”

At the same time, ISPs are also concerned about DoT’s road map for wireless broadband (WiMAX) roll out in the country, which is at variance with the recommendations of the telecom regulator.

An internal committee of DoT, which is studying Trai’s recommendations on wireless broadband, had recently proposed that WiMAX launch be initially restricted to only three players who will operate this service in the 2.5 GHz frequency band. DoT has also proposed that one of the three slots be reserved for state-owned BSNL/MTNL, which will imply that private telecom operators and ISPs will have to compete for just two slots. On the other hand, telecom regulator Trai had suggested that wireless broadband be rolled out in 3.3-3.4 GHz and 3.4-3.6 GHz frequencies and up to 13 players, several of whom would be ISPs, be allocated spectrum to offer WiMAX services.