It is interesting that despite pressing conditions prevailing in 2G and 3G segments for long, consolidation is instead showing signs of happening in the broadband wireless access (BWA) segment.
With the recent Qualcomm-Airtel tie-up, a significant step has been taken in that direction.
After state-run telco BSNL had surrendered the BWA spectrum that it had been awarded for 20 telecom circles, a void had suddenly been created. While Reliance Infotel remained a player with pan-India license, the next biggest player was Aircel with eight circles, but excluding the prized circles of Delhi and Mumbai.
With the Qualcomm-Airtel handshake, competition in the BWA segment could becomes fleshier and healthier. It potentially brings another player with presence in eight circles, including Delhi and Mumbai, in the fray. And given that Airtel has started rolling out LTE services under the BWA license, the catalyst for other players to roll out services could become more pronounced and effective.
Indeed, a reasonable amount of competition is good for the industry and for the consumers.
The relatively lower costs of BWA licenses, compared to those of 3G, make it a promising candidate for increasing broadband density, particularly in areas not served by wireline broadband technologies like DSL or fiber.
While 3G works well with the relatively smaller screens of smart phones, greater demands of larger screens would be better served by LTE like speeds.
Though India has achieved a significantly high tele-density rapidly, it still is relatively low in terms of PC-penetration, with low computer literacy being a key reason. There, however, appears to be a latent need for Internet access devices that are intuitive to use and have larger screens than smart phones. The genre of tablets theoretically bridges that gap well enough but has not yet seen the growth that the industry has been looking forward to.
Rollouts of ultra high-speed networks like LTE hold the promise to serve bandwidth needs of tablets and notebooks better.
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