The last mile access is the holy grail; this is one of the most contentious issues across the world as to how to bridge the gap.
There are many cities in US which haven’t yet been served with Broadband. Predictably, this has given rise to the digital haves and have nots and it isn’t surprising to see ISP’s worse than our very own BSNL.
However, the thrust of the post isn’t ISP bashing. It’s about newer technologies that have made their presence felt. The first among those has been WiFi or Wireless Fidelty. There has been a confusing string of names and I wouldn’t go in the technical details. I’d rather focus on the policy aspects of implementation.
WiFi has been recently de licenced by the “improved” version of the Telecom Policy. Predictably, there were a lot of “anal-ysts” who were crowing hoarse about the implications. That it would usher us in the information age all at once. It hasn’t happened over the past 1+ year and I see/ read no signs of the same.
WiFi is limited in extent to what we call as a “hotspot”. Anyone can set up a wireless router to broadband connection and serve it up. This trend hasn’t really caught up in India. Infrastructure/ pricing hassles apart, the biggest drawback of WiFi is the limited range it can offer. Plus, the equipment et al ought to be in “Line of Sight”. Not to mention the slow access speeds.
To overcome these hassles, the younger sibling of WiFi, WiMaX was announced. Theoretically speaking, it can serve speeds UPTO 70Mbps and doesn’t need the “line of sight” for it’s implementation.
However, there are three major issues with this.
With the present immersive content available online, I doubt whether WiMaX can really have any impact on access.
You could as well as toss coins about the utility of the same. At best, it can be used in war time scenarios- with WiMaX transmitters embedded deep in bunkers; maintain the crucial data links among the commanders. Or setting up WiMaX systems for the armed forces in dreary areas. Who would mind streaming porn?
The large scale implementation of WiFi in India is being planned for Pune, near Mumbai. There hasn’t been any disclosure of the details as yet, but if it does happen, it would be the first city in India to have WiFi on such a scale. The biggest hitch is that the customer base is ill defined. The Pune Municipal Corporation has estimated that there are approximately 1 lakh laptop owners. They have assumed that ALL of them would subscribe to WiFi. Which in my opinion is sheer stupidity. The pricing details et al would have to be attractive enough to make it happen. Further, they would have to bank on the increased customer base using computers.
We are still far away from REAL BROADBAND. Everything boils down to spectrum availability and final price. India isn’t WiMax ready; till the time Wireless can come up with something better, I believe that it would be more prudent to focus on increasing the landline base.