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India's Dynamic and Innovative Wi-Fi Ecosystem

This article is excerpted from a new report from Tonse Telecom, sponsored by the Wi-Fi Alliance, entitled The Future for Wi-F in India: Opportunities & Challenges. A full copy of this report is available at no cost from the Wi-Fi Alliance web site ( .

With the Indian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology declaring 2007 as the Year of Broadband, the priorities are clearly set. The ensuing battle for market share currently on in the mobile space will likely spill over into broadband as a nation starved for connectivity will begin network roll outs. Over the next few years this will create a new digital India with ubiquitous broadband connectivity, both wireless and wired, teeming with an always-connected young generation that is mobile and empowered. At the forefront of this transformation will be a familiar wireless broadband technology: Wi-Fi.

India's current broadband subscriber base is still just about 2 million (November 2006), a far cry from the Broadband Policy which targeted 3 million connections by end of 2005 (falling short by 33% a year later). This is now set to change as the Government spearheads a strong broadband penetration into the country. The combined effect of a number of macro economic and social factors together with a large domestic demand seem poised to bring in a phenomenal growth in wireless broadband in India.

Wi-Fi is not new to India and has been deployed in enterprises, campuses and SOHO sectors for several years. However, now more than ever before it is clear that all the enablers for creating a sustained Wi-Fi network will emerge. The availability of a robust national data-network backbone remained somewhat unutilized all these years due to the following reasons: high costs of data circuits and generally high bandwidth costs. This has changed significantly in the last year with a general drop of over 70% in data link prices.

End-Point Proliferation
On the user side, a phenomenal 100% rise in laptop consumption over the last year is only an indication of shape of things to come.

As multi-national companies and Indian corporations continue to grow their Indian offices (expected growth in MNC hiring in tech sector to double in 2007) and global work-practices begin to be seen in India, the always-on connected professional is increasingly visible. Flexi-hours and home-office culture has set-in in the tech cities making laptop usage and home Wi-Fi a necessity. The small business enterprises are contributing significantly to the mobile work-force by becoming the fastest growing segment in laptop consumption.

The Indian Government is considering halving excise duty on hardware (proposal status as of January 2007) which will likely bring in taxation level on par with China. Should this become a reality, PC and laptop costs will come down further increasing consumption even more.

Undergraduate students and young professionals are picking up the laptop as their first computer purchase. This is a marked difference from the earlier days where desktop PCs was the trend. The PC segment continues to grow at about 22-24% per year but the laptop seems likely to continue to grow at 100% rates over the next two to three years. With an estimated 80% laptops shipped being Wi-Fi enabled, there will be a number of mobile Wi-Fi commuters in the cities.

Although the near-term opportunity for Wi-Fi is primarily oriented toward traditional data applications (web surfing, email) via a PC, India's mobile revolution has already generated a cellular subscriber population of 143 million (as of December 2006). Adding in excess of 5 million subscribers per month, India is likely to cross the 250 million mobile population within 2008. With 3G scheduled to be launched, a whole community of data-capable, multi-band smart phones mobile devices will enter the market. The country will see a proliferation of Wi-Fi end points over the next three years driving demand for ubiquitous wireless points of presence.

Source : Digital Communities

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