Saturday, July 4, 2009

Femtos for India?

This is just one of those days I day dream. I have few thoughts popping in my head for a while, in fact I started thinking about them during my vacation. I am living in corporate world for past 2 years and I totally understand the network requirements there. But one week stay in my home town with my parents made think about the network in little different way.

Status in India right now : Non Corporate : Majority of India is middle class. With kids going to schools and colleges internet has become a revolution in India. People are using broadband connections offered by local vendors. Couple of years back came the DSL revolution. Every one started adopting to the DSL and ADSL. This brought in major players like Reliance, Bharti, TATA into access network zone. I have a BSNL DSL connection in my home here in Hyderabad. Couple of months back I purchased a wireless access point and my dad is enjoying his wireless connectivity. This applies to most of the homes in my apartment too except that they are still running on DSL without wifi.

OK. Why this back ground check. I started understanding femtos. There are new laptops coming into the market which are pretty cheap. Easily affordable by college students and people like my dad who just needs to check couple of websites and emails. This is my target segment for the discussion.

3G spectrum auctions are still due in India. LTE is still not mature for deployment. So India has to stick to HSPA+ with may be 3 Mbps speeds which is pretty good for the above market segment. The whole idea is "Replacing Wifi with Femtos". Is it possible. Consider this. There are 100 flats in my apartment. Every home has minimum of 2 mobile phones and one computer. Recently people have started purchasing small laptops. So what if, say Airtel, deploys a femto for my apartment giving out mobiles and wireless internet. A laptop with Airtel sim card built in providing internet over HSPA is perfect for my dad and off course great for college students. What will Airtel get by this? 200 mobile connections and 100 internet connections which is definitely good.

I see few difficulties here. First is the laptop with HSPA cards inbuilt. Is it good to have a inbuilt card or should service provider stick to usb sticks? If the cards are inbuilt customers are at the feet of service provider which I hate. But USB sticks are still not affordable, they are expensive. People would go for a DSL connection rather then investing heck lot on a USB. Next is femtos deployment. Migrating customers from one service provider to other is tough as there is still no number portability available. BTW number portability "may" arrive in India by end of september.

Is there is a way to manufacture HSPA cards which can work with any network? Can we make them as generic as wifi cards? Will technology allow it? My whole point is can India deploy femtos skipping wifi boom. A park with femto zone for people to relax and read on web. Coffee pub with femto. Apartments with femto. Isnt it wonderful? Corporate would any way go for them. Femtos will definitely be big hit in corporates.

What do you folks think? Am I completely out of mind or just started to loose my mind. I would like to know your views on this.


Zahid Ghadialy said...

Hi Santosh,

HSPA cards are generic as they are based on 3GPP standards. Generally there should be a SIM in the laptops which you will have to change depending on the operator. It may be that some operators in India have locked the HSPA cards to the operators so that you cannot put other SIM cards. Same concept as phone locking to network operators.

On the other hand right now, Femtos are operator specific so you cannot expect to use it with other operators.


Santosh said...


Thank you for the comment. Picture this, HSPA card with Airtel SIM card is sitting in a laptop. Assuming that there is number portability available, will it be possible for me to move to other vendor keeping both my HSPA and SIM card intact? or Phone locking mechanism doesnt allow it?


Zahid Ghadialy said...

Well, when you move an operator regardless of number portability, you have to change your SIM. The HSPA card may be operator locked but I have not seen that in practice yet. If thats the case then you can only use it with Airtel SIM. If its not locked then you can remove the old SIM and put a new one in. Its very simple and straightforward to remove SIM from laptop and put new one in.


Santosh said...

I get it now Zahid. Thanks for taking time to reply.

Anonymous said...

With the possibility of getting only one carrier for HSPA, it seems unlikely that femtos will arrive anytime soon in India. Also the operators need the HSPA carrier to decongest their already congested GSM networks especially in metros such as Delhi etc. Besides the DSL coverage is so spotty in India doesnt make sense for a household to invest in DSL and a femto and neither does it make sense for Bharti or any of the other operators who have both fixed and wireless operations. Macro coverage is the way to go for HSPA. That and a good prepaid plan is what will drive mobile internet in India given that 90% of subscribers today are prepaid in India.