Spectrum Issues Might Stunt Wi-Fi Deployments

by Sonal Desai    Jan 26, 2007

Even as the Wi-Fi market in India is pegged to exceed $750 million in the next five years, spectrum is playing spoilsport against growth opportunities in this sector. Range is also one of the factors that may pose a challenge for its adoption.

Frank Hanzlik, MD, Wi-Fi Alliance said that growing wireless broadband will require efficient use of licensed and unlicensed spectrum. “Existing economies of scale enable rapid infrastructure and device proliferation of PCs, CE devices and phones,” he remarked.

He feels that there are numerous opportunities for Wi-Fi in India. The young will demand ubiquitous wireless data services. Enterprises would use Wi-Fi applications for PoS applications, or Wi-Fi equipped check-in agents.

With a booming retail, expectations from the wireless broadband will rise. Companies like Motorola and Cisco, who have experience in warehousing, will play lead roles in Wi-Fi deployment and adoption. Other industries that will benefit to a larger extent are the auto industry and manufacturing.

Wi-Fi is also connecting rural citizens and the enterprise. Hanzlik cited examples of NGOs in Andhra Pradesh, who provide telemedicine over a Wi-Fi network. Projects of adult education are also being rolled out on Wi-Fi, he said.

He however, warned that license spectrum should be used more economically since Wi-Fi usage is likely to rise with increasing availability of laptops and broadband. Seconding his debate on the spectrum issue, Rajesh Kumar, Jt. deputy director general, Strategic Planning at BSNL said that spectrum will continue to challenge Wi-Fi deployments.

While Wi-Fi has been allocated a spectrum of 3.5 to 2.5 GHz globally, in India, the government has allocated it a spectrum of 3.3 - 3.4 GHz.

In India, television and the department of space are currently occupying the spectrum that has been globally allocated for Wi-Fi deployments, Kumar informed. He said that the government has asked the DoS to vacate its spectrum.

With serious discussions on WiMax deployments also doing rounds, debates on interoperability have risen. Intel’s Centrino laptops that are Wi-Fi enabled will be able to integrate WiMax in future.

Integrating Wi-Fi and WiMax will benefit the service providers as Wi-Fi is essentially meant for short-range communication. WiMax, on the other hand, is free of any spectrum issue and has a longer reach.