India awaits its place in the WiFi world

Before the world could be wired up into a global village, it is already being converted into a wireless planet. But India's red tape and bureacracy means frustrated users are having to wait to join in.

The latest thing to shake up the communication world is WiFi.
It is wireless protocol for device connectivity and is used for wireless local area network (W-LAN) connections and wireless Internet for handhelds, desktops and other wireless devices.

Speeds are high enough for heavy usage. The 802.11b standard has capability of 11 million bits per second (11Mbps) while 802.11a/g offers a shattering 54 Mbps.

However, in India, the underlying "speed ramp" for progression remains government regulation. So far only 802.11b has been deregulated on 2.4 Ghz ISM (industrial, scientific and medical) band, what's more this was only done for internal use only.

WiFi has tremendous potential to provide last mile connectivity.

Already we have 400,000 kilometres of fibre laid in India and any given place is just 25 kilometres from the nearest fibre outing.

WiFi could be used to take care of this problem according to Manoj Chugh, president, Cisco South Asia.

At the same time thought WiFi would create new problems in telecom regulation, as its applications are similar to 3G mobile communications in that wavelengths must be allocated by the government.

Everyone knows this could be a long and drawn out bureaucratic process.

It remains to be seen which telecom companies will come forward to provide WiFi services like telcos Soneratelenor and Deutsche Telecom who already offer WiFi services to their existing GSM users in Europe.

W-LAN services are already being offered in airplanes (Lufthansa) and in trains (in Sweden), India has much catching up to do.

In India, the cost factor and government regulation would restrict such developments from going beyond hotels, corporate campuses and similar niche applications.

Vendors seem to be upbeat despite the potential stumbling blocks.

Dadi Perlmutter, vice president (mobile platform) of US chip manufacturer Intel says that India could be the largest WiFi market.

WiFi might be the next big thing, but the role of Indian IT firms won’t be substantial, though Intel recently moved some development work on its mobile platform to Banglore.

According to National Association of Software & Service Companies (NASSCOM) president, Kiran Karnik, Indian companies are expected to remain users rather then developers of wireless technology for the time being.