India is where the action is!

Updated: Jan 20 2007, 06:39am hrs
Ericsson recently signed a deal with Dialog Telekoms for building its 3G/HSPA network in Sri Lanka. With the Indian government firming up its plans for 3G network and spectrum release, Ericsson India and Srilanka president Mats Granryd, is expecting India to roll out its 3G networks in the next three to six months. He is also very excited about the future of mobile broadband in India and Ericssons role in taking 3G to the Indian hinterland. Taneesha Kulshrestha caught up with him on the sidelines of a CII summit.

What are your expectations from the India market What speed do you see it growing

The Indian market is among the fastest growing markets in the world. In 2006, it doubled its GSM subscriber base. Also, in the past six months, it added more subscribers than any other market. I expect the Indian markets to expand to do the same going forward. As for Ericsson we hope to grow faster than the market rate and be a leading player. Over the next five years, we will invest $100 million every year. We may also increase these investments if we see that they are not in keeping with the growth of the industry.

The other benefit of being in the Indian market is that any low cost solution or technological breakthrough achieved is equally applicable in part of the globe. The market enriches us by enabling us to provide better, faster and cheaper services to our consumers all over the world. India is thus a both a learning curve and a revenue curve.

When can we expect Ericsson to roll out its first network in India

We are in talks with several private players as well as the entities from the regulatory side. We are receiving news that the government is ready with its 3G spectrum usage guidelines and will be allocating it soon. Given the scenario, I would expect that India will get its first network within the next six to nine months from now.

What are the possible hurdles do you see in rolling out 3G networks in India

The basic challenges for India remain lack of basic civic utilities, low wireless coverage, uncertainty over spectrum availability and inadequate infrastructure. The inavailbility of power is specially a big obstacles. However, these can be overcome if there is infrastructure sharing, use of low cost solutions tailor-made for local people, and use of alternate fuels.

What problems do you see for Ericsson

I think the challenges in network installation will not be very daunting. The technology at present does not require the equipment to be mounted some different kind of towers than the existing ones. We should be able to execute the rolling out well.

Will the same hold for rural India

Penetrating rural India will be more difficult. However, the onus of doing so lies on the telecom operators as we are not in the business of making towers. So if there are towers, than we would be able to go there.

What about the costs

Developing low cost equipment and low cost solutions is a continuous process at Ericsson. The government is targeting 500 million telecom subscribers by 2010. Rural customers will form a significant proportion of this. For rural penetration, industry will need economy of scale, low cost bandwith, IP evolution as well as low cost devices for receiving the broad band services. Ericsson, on its part, is developing third generation phones for about $100 (Rs 4,500) and lower phones. This will aid penetration.

What do you see as the market for 3G technologies in India

The market has just begun to evolve now. Education, can be a big market with more and more universities looking at education without geographical boundaries, mobile banking, healthcare, national e-governance B-to-B trading are only some of the possibilities.

Which 3G technology do you think is best suited to India, HSPA, Wimax or others

According to Ericssons research, the HSPA technology is best suited to India. For successful and cheaper 3G applications, it is an entire ecosystem that needs to be created. It is cheaper to create this ecosystem with the HSPA technology with GSM subscriber base being more. Ericsson already has functioning HSPA networks in place in different countries and expect the speeds possible to increase up 42 MBS by 2008.

What has been your global experience with mobile broadband

Globally, 3G technologies are growing fast with convergence. For instance, a cellphone is simply just not a phone today but also can be used as a radio, camera and more. Going forward, I expect more and more people to experience the Internet on handsets. Consumers over the globe have already started doing the same. For instance, 27% of UK 3G consumers download four songs a month and 100 operators have launched mobile TV. The nature of 3G service consumption is changing fast. There are 275 million worldwide broadband connections with India having only around 2 million of the same. We thus see a significant in increase in data services in India. 3G is already a widely deployed technology for providing wireless data services the word over, and India should exploit this.