ICTpost Governance Bureau
India has a total of 3.3 million square kilometres of land area that requires network coverage. Roughly, 5000 square kilometres can be covered with one WiMAX deployment at rough cost of US$0.5mn. This would require about 750 to 1000 deployments (of WiMAX MAN’s) to cover all of India’s rural areas. Therefore, a conservative estimate is US$500mn to cover all the 5000 PURA locations. Such implementation should take into account and leverage existing infrastructure such as building (engineering colleges), existing cell towers, open-source software, student and volunteer workers, gifts and grants from Fortune 100 tech companies etc., and strive for reducing the overall cost of implementation and maintenance in order to offer free network access to the masses.
As part of the Pilot phase and feasibility analysis, a thorough analysis of the demographics and distribution of villages around towns and cities needs to be captured and understood. The work being accomplished as part of the highway infrastructure and PURA ring roads can be reused as well. These characteristics (demographics, population distribution, village clusters, town and city locations etc.) along with terrain data, logistics for solar energy and the availability of the internet backbone will determine the exact number and locations of the WiMAX base station deployments around the nation. However majority of this deployment architecture can be determined based on what is being learnt from the 5 pilots.
A phased approach beyond the 5 pilots could potentially begin with increments of 25 to 100 deployments per quarter, completing the full rollout within a span of 10 to 16 quarters (2.5 to 4 years).
This initiative in conjunction with the PURA initiatives must be treated as a New Entrant ISP covering rural areas (non competitive due to its reach to remote areas where ISP’s do not exist) and offering connectivity for free – fixed and mobile. However as an ISP this venture could potentially generate revenue from Local Service Providers offering valued added applications including interactive games, video conferencing, VoIP telephony, instant messaging, streaming media etc., and to enterprises that offer there services to these remote locations. Revenues that could potentially be used for operations, administration and maintenance costs, in the long run.
One key factor that needs to be noted is the fact that a WiMAX deployment only offers Access Networks across rural India. However, there are basic services that would be required for such large-scale deployments as well as connectivity to service networks via a core network. Such services include primarily AAA (authentication, authorization and auditing) services, OSS and Billing — if revenue generating services are offered such as content services, or if service and content providers are charged for the reach of their services. However, these services are to be augmented with localized services as well, based on local regional requirements in terms of information services, content etc.
Based on this solution architecture, each deployment of a MAN (1000 such deployments can be replicas of the few that gets tested, first), would include Base Station, Service Network Gateway, Redundant AAA Servers (highly distributed identity systems), Redundant OSS/B Servers (Open Source Linux based), Basic Local Service Servers (web, news, application servers), switching gear for connectivity to main link to the backbone, and WiMAX enabled terminals to test.
The long term strategic benefits include direct employment generated by the 1000 plus deployments in terms of operations, administration and maintenance staff; direct employment generated by the 1000 plus deployments in terms of managing the links to local service providers (e.g., local tourism and availability of hotel rooms, availability of specialist doctors and treatment centres); access to all the information resources that the Internet has to offer (from online education to school going children to online Bachelors and Masters degrees); access to a participative Internet — sharing wedding albums to posting Blogs on subjects of interest; access to a collaborative Internet – sharing knowledge – virtual events etc. For example, online tutoring over the Internet for a world of children needing affordable tutoring; promoting indigenous solutions to a global market. For example, farmers can promote a specialised fruit juice (only available in India) that acts as a boost to the human immunity system (taps into the massive Ayurvedic product base in India); empowers local folks with local and global information; indirect employment generated via augmenting effects; industries in rural areas leveraging the MAN for disseminating sensory data (from sprinkler systems to electronic goods — all generate sensory data throughout the manufacturing and supply chain management processes); travel and tourism in rural areas benefiting from high speed connectivity; transportation and logistics benefiting from high speed connectivity; increase in telecommuting due to reach of the access network; benefits for the old aged and handicapped in terms of services offered via the access network; communication possibilities during natural disasters; emergency communication possibilities in rural locations; live webcast of India’s major events (cultural and social) from and to rural locations; more effective participation of rural India with a global community for productive purposes; stimulates next generation network services and business models around these services (location based, presence based, identity enabled, etc.); and more.
India has this opportunity to leapfrog other developed nations in terms of skipping major 2G, 3G and 3.5G deployments and laying the foundation for a 4G public network directly at a fraction of the cost when compared to traditional 3G networks. The specific technology offered by WiMAX (802.16 protocol) and OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multi-plexing) and its respective reach is well suited with the PURA concept.