WiMAX is considered the biggest threat to pure-play mobile telephony. Its invention has forced mobile service providers worldwide to start trials on marrying their GSM/3G networks with WiMAX technology. Almost 30 times faster than 3G, WiMAX can support a speed of up to 70 mbps as against 3G, which supports only 380 kbps to 2 mbps.
Countries like the US are aggressively deploying WiMAX technology with service providers like Sprint, originally a CDMA player, migrating to WiMAX. Motorola already offers WiMAX handsets and global vendors like Alcatel and Lucent are developing equipment for WiMAX services. Globally, WiMAX is undergoing over 200 trials while it has been deployed at 40 locations commercially.
Partnering with Intel would give BSNL a major edge over rivals Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices in ramping up its broadband penetration, which currently stands at about 850,000. WiMAX is particularly suited for rural areas where telecom infrastructure is limited. A WiMAX installation can cover a radius of 25-30 kms against a GSM towers coverage area of 1-1.5 km.
BSNL is also conducting trials on mobile services using WiMAX, allowing it to offer faster speeds to mobile and Internet users on its network.
Intel plans to invest around $1 billion up to 2010 to expand operations in the country and also invest in local technology companies.