Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bangalore all set to become `unwired`

Bangalore all set to become `unwired`
Bibhu Ranjan Mishra & Aravind Gowda / Bangalore July 28, 2007
Close on the heels of Pune and Baramati (a small city in Maharashtra), India's infotech capital, Bangalore, too will provide seamless wireless connectivity as a part of its Rs 800 crore “Unwire Bangalore” project.

Even as Delhi has been planning to make the city “wireless”, the Karnataka government has reportedly given the go-ahead to all the five bidding consortia to roll out the services in a phased manner. Three of the bidders have started deploying the required infrastructure and services will be rolled out this year.

Conceptualised on a build, operate and own model, the Unwire Bangalore project aims at creating an infrastructure network that will provide wireless Internet connection to the entire city using world interoperability for microwave access (WiMax) and Wi-Fi technologies. The project is expected to cover 679 square kilometres of the city in a phased manner.

Participating companies Investments Technologies Area to cover
Bangalore: 5 consortia Roughly Rs 800 cr Wi-Fi and WiMax 679 sq km
Pune (Intel in partnership with Microsense) Roughly Rs 100 cr WiMax 250 sq km
Delhi: (in the planning stages) (Not available) WiMax (Not available)

Of the five consortia, one represented by Railtel, ITI Ltd and Sobha Renaissance Information Technology (SRIT) has already launched wireless Internet service in Nandi Colony and Whitefield (industrial area) in the city on a pilot basis. It is currently rolling out the service in commercial locations.

Its wireless connectivity is based on pay per usage of bandwidth, using SRIT’s product DynaRate, which enables users to demand bandwidth on a real-time and dynamic basis.

The consortium will offer up to 34 kbps of bandwidth free to the subscribers and any additional consumption of bandwidth for higher use will be charged on a pay-per-use basis.

While ITI will manage the network elements for the infrastructure by supplying routers, switches, base station equipment, radio frequency towers and exchange switches, Railtel will provide the Internet bandwidth.

SRIT will support the network operation centre management and provide content packaging and management for the project.

The consortium will spend about Rs 200 crore in rolling out the services in three different phases, of which SRIT will spend about Rs 80 crore towards the software and solutions it is planning to deploy.

“We plan to roll out the services in three phases. We have already initiated the first phase covering a 5-10 km radius around Vidhana Soudha and it will be completed in six months. The remaining two phases will cover Bangalore and some suburbs,” sources in SRIT said.

The other consortia that have got the nod include AirTel and Keonics, Aircel and Pronto Networks, and Microsense (which carried out the project in Pune along with Intel) and VSNL. Karnataka’s IT/BT secretary, MN Vidyashankar, said there was scope for more players in the project.

“The government is facilitating companies in rolling out this service across the city. We expect competition to increase as all telecommunication service providers are also planning to offer this service,” he told Business Standard.

According to the project guidelines, the government will not make any investment. The principal partners (five consortia) will design and implement the wireless infrastructure and maintain it for a specific period.

Initially, the Karnataka Biotech and IT Services (KBITS) had invited expressions of interest for the Unwire Bangalore project. However, after realising the greater scope for private players, the government decided to become a facilitator.

“The project is being implemented through principal partners and service channel partners, which include private players,” Vidyashankar added.


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