Tata Communications launches two WAN products for enterprise customers

Indian telecom giant Tata Communications has launched a pair of global Ethernet services for multinational enterprises to create wide area networks (WANs) across India and onward to major business centers in North America as well as Asia, Europe and Africa.

The two services, Dedicated Point-to-Multipoint Ethernet and Dedicated Multipoint Ethernet, can be used by enterprises to create a "virtual business campus, with users around the world communicating as if they were in adjacent offices. Both of the offerings have passed Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) certification tests - the 'Good Housekeeping' seals of the Carrier Ethernet industry. Indeed Tata boasts of being "the first global and Indian provider to earn MEF certification for its Ethernet services."

Dedicated Point-to-Multipoint Ethernet uses a hub and spoke network model to transmit data between a central location, such as a corporate headquarters or data processing center, and satellite locations. The Dedicated Multipoint service allows enterprises to deploy any-to-any network topology to create a global Ethernet WAN. Both new services have MAC address forwarding, completely private networks for each customer, and customer-premise to customer-premise service level agreements (SLAs).

"These two new services further deepen TATA's WAN Ethernet Service set, provide additional value to their customers and provide high quality services with features not found elsewhere in the market.

Tata's Ethernet network reaches eight cities in the U.S. from coast to coast, as well as two in Canada and a dozen in other countries. In its home country of India it has Ethernet points of presence (POPs) in 120 locations.

QUALCOMM tests 20 Mb/s speed using HSPA+

As per telecomweb news Qualcomm has completed what is characterized as the "world's first data call" using High-Speed Packet Access Plus (HSPA+) network technology, achieving a data transfer rate of more than 20 Mb/s in a 5 MHz channel.

The Qualcomm results were nearly twice as fast as the highest previously-reported HSPA+ results, in which Nokia-Siemens Networks demonstrated 10.1 Mb/s downlink performance. Both tests are highly significant in the positioning of HSPA+ as the interim generation between the current HSPA wireless broadband, typically delivering between 1 Mb/s and 2 Mb/s, and the eventual adoption of the much faster Long Term Evolution (LTE), with a theoretical 173 Mb/s bandwidth.

HSPA+, seen by many analysts as the technology which will destroy the market chances of IEEE 802.16e-2005 (which is being called by Intel and its camp followers mobile WiMAX), has a theoretical limit of 42 Mb/s in its current version, although most observers think it will top out at around 28.8 Mb/s. An advanced version that may double those specs is in the works. That, many feel, will be more than enough for HSPA/HSPA+ to be the dominant wireless broadband technology for the cellular industry until at least 2015

HSPA+, by the way, is also known s Evolved HSPA, HSPA Evolution, and I-HSPA or Internet HSPA. wireless broadband standard defined in 3GPP release 7.HSPA+, or whatever one calls it, is 3rd Generation Partnership Program (3GPP) Release 7. HSPA was Release 6, and LTE is Release 8.

Strategy of the new kid on the block - Tata Communications

Tata Group subsidiary Tata Communications is looking for a managed-services company, possibly one located in the United States. It is also putting a minority interest in its tower operation up for sale, with an asking price rumored to be as high as $6 billion. And, as frosting on the cake, it has expanded its global virtual private network (VPN) service to China.

According to reports of Telecomweb, Tata Communications wants to buy small- and mid-size managed-services outfits with annual revenues in the range of $50 million and $200 million. It's said to be looking for companies in the United States, the U.K., and Asia as well as in India itself. Tata Communications is the new kid on the block or rather a 5,000-pound gorilla in the global telecom marketplace - born just last month as the unified global brand for VSNL, VSNL International, Teleglobe (the former Bell Canada subsidiary VSNL bought for $239 million , Tata Indicom Enterprise Business Unit and CIPRIS. The combination created the Number One global international wholesale voice operator and the Number One provider of international long-distance, enterprise-data and Internet services in India.

What Tata's looking for next really is more technology than a book of business. At $50 million to $200 million in revenues as a criterion, it would be picking up companies that aren't of global scale and probably don't have the resources to go global by themselves. Tata's plan would be to integrate the technology it gets from such companies, eventually putting together a global powerhouse that could challenge such market leaders as AT&T, BT and France Telecom's Orange Business Services. Tata's goal is said to be a 6-percent- to-7-percent market share within three years, in what it estimates will be a $50 billion cross-border global market in which managed services will play a role.

Meanwhile, within India itself, Tata is attempting to monetize part of its huge cellular-tower infrastructure it set up as a separate company called Wireless Tata Telecom Infrastructure Ltd. It currently owns 13,500 towers, with a growth plan to add about 3,000 per year for the foreseeable future; it's now negotiating to sell a minority stake of between 26 percent and 49 percent in the tower operation. Tata says it's received indications of interest from 30 potential bidders, and the company currently is in negotiations with half of that group, with hopes of cutting a deal by the end of May. Potential investors were understood to include international investment entities as well as local Indian investors. Analysts are guessing as high as $6 billion if a full 49-percent stake is sold.

In a final piece of Tata news, the company says it's expanding its Global VPN service to China through a network-to-network interface (NNI) agreement with China Enterprise Netcom Corporation Limited (China Entercom/CEC). China Entercom is a value-added telecommunication services and integrated IT solutions provider, and a subsidiary of China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC).

Under the NNI, Tata Communications and China Entercom have interconnected their respective Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) infrastructures, giving Tata Communications' multi-national corporate customers VPN connectivity to 347 cities throughout China. The Tata VPN service so far has reached 120 cities in India and 19 major business centers across North America, Asia and Europe. It runs over Tata's IP network, which touches 195 countries.

Tata Communications' agreement with China Entercom allows them to serve many global and India MNC customers who require a single scalable and reliable global VPN with deep reach into both India and China, and broad reach around the world. China and India are the engines driving the globalizing information economy, and it is critical for MNC's to establish reliable infrastructure in these markets.

WIMAX or LTE - Future tensed

WiMAX and Long-Term Evolution (LTE) are set to push the takeup of 4G services worldwide, with the total number of 4G subscribers w expected to exceed 90 million in 2013. As per says ABI Research, at the end of 4Q07, there were nearly 3.4 billion mobile subscribers worldwide, with 2.7 billion on GSM/EDGE/GPRS networks. Worldwide WCDMA subscriber numbers hit 180 million in 4Q07. ABI Research expects migration to HSPA+ to begin in early 2010, and migration to LTE will start by the middle of the same year. ABI Research forecast the total number of WCDMA subscribers (including HSPA) to approach 720 million in 2013. Some operators may not be ready to move on to LTE, as the peak data rates of 100 Mbps downlink and 50 Mbps uplink are achievable only with a 20- megahertz spectrum band. That is a luxury that most operators may not have, and many may be content with the capabilities of HSPA+ or settle for suboptimal LTE data rates with whatever they have at the time.

While the long-term roadmap for CDMA2000, especially in relation to UMB, looks more uncertain, CDMA operators are taking advantage of current upgrade possibilities. As such, many carriers have upgraded portions of their networks to EV-DO Rev A during 2007 while new CDMA entrants start with Rev A. ABI Research expects the total number of CDMA2000 subscribers (including 1x and various versions of EV-DO) to approach 800 million by the end of 2013

What will drive WiMAX growth?

Sprint's so-far-challenged mobile WiMAX buildout and rumors of a potential investment by Intel in that network are signs suggesting DSL/cable replacement and not mobility will continue to propel WiMAX forward in the short term.
Last fall, Intel took a minority stake in Nexcom Bulgaria, a competitive telecom operator that's in the process of rolling out that country's first 802.16-based nationwide wireless broadband network using WiMAX Forum-certified hardware. A vendor paying substantial sums for deployment of its own technology at this stage of product development is a concern. The lack of substantial mobile WiMAX network deployments without the Intel investment is troubling. Fixed WiMAX markets will remain a key to vendors. Currently WiMAX revenues are experiencing brisk growth due to employment of the technology as a cable/DSL replacement, adding fixed WiMAX subscribers will nearly double annually during these next years and will account for more than 60 percent of WiMAX subscribers by year end 2013 as well as a multibillion-dollar equipment market.

Major carriers are poised next year to deploy HSPA+ which is an update to existing WCDMA platforms and which will also outperform WiMAX Wave 2 networks. In a few more years operators will also be able to deploy UMB and LTE which both offer substantial improvements over 802.16e.

WiMAX vendors are by no means out of the mobile race. The upcoming 802.16m specification will offer the WiMAX community another great shot at mobile wireless in the 2010-2012 timeframe when most operators will be looking ahead.

Is WIMAX wading through troubled waters?

Motorola is positioning itself to offer an out to any carrier that opts for a network based on IEEE 802.16e (WiMAX) as its 4G offering and later decides it made the wrong choice and should have waited for the rival Long Term Evolution (LTE).

It's also been disclosed that Alltel is on the verge of ditching CDMA, eschewing WiMAX and joining the LTE crowd, and it's apparently working hand-in-hand with Motorola's LTE effort, leaving Sprint even further isolated in its choice of WiMAX.

In a little-noticed statement, Motorola said it's readying a wireless broadband platform that supports both WiMAX and LTE evolved Node-B (LTE/eNodeB) - the first such piece of hardware hinted at by anyone in the industry. The move will let carriers that take the WiMAX plunge to move to LTE (LTE advocates would say "upgrade to LTE") at some point in the future at a massively reduced capex.

Motorola didn't mention the name of any carriers it's targeting. However, in the United States, the only cellular carrier committed to what it calls WiMAX is Sprint, with its troubled Xohm program. Motorola is a key Sprint Xohm supplier with its IEEE 802.16e-based hardware (none of which has yet been certified as meeting WiMAX Forum specifications).

Motorola's WiMAX-to-LTE release was both buried in the pile of announcements Motorola has planned for next week's huge CTIA Wireless 2008 show in Las Vegas and vastly overshadowed by the company's announcement of its decision to split itself asunder, creating two separate public owned entities, in a desperate attempt to salvage its cellular handset business. The WiMAX/LTE hardware comes from the half of Motorola that's been making money hand over fist and growing at a healthy clip, and thus appears destined to survive no matter what the fate of the money-losing handset unit.

In related news, Motorola says it's demonstrated the first successful packet-switched network handoff between CDMA EV-DO Rev-A and LTE. The demo encompassed both VoIP calls and streaming video. Motorola, which is going to hold live demonstrations of the handoff next week, says laptops and mobile devices are equipped with dual radio transceivers that support both CDMA/EV-DO Rev-A and LTE and are active during the packet handoffs. As a device loses LTE connectivity, it automatically switches to EV-DO to help ensure consistent streaming without dropping IP packets. The process is then reversed, and devices switch back to LTE when LTE connectivity is restored.

Motorola's target market is obvious: every CDMA carrier in the world, starting with Verizon, which already has disclosed plans to migrate from CDMA to LTE Motorola is taking part in LTE trials set for later this year by Verizon and Vodafone, which owns 40 percent of Verizon Wireless. It now also appears Alltel is close to making the same decision.

At this point, Motorola's CDMA-to-LTE (and back again) technology is just at the demonstration stage, and it didn't give any timetable for having product ready for market, hardly a surprise because initial LTE deployments aren't expected until sometime late next year.

In other Motorola LTE action, the company joined the LTE/System Architecture Evolution (SAE) Trial Initiative (LSTI). Motorola's success in getting a foot in the door at Verizon/Vodafone was said to be a major factor in that decision. The LSTI is a global, collaborative technology trial initiative focused on accelerating the availability of commercial and interoperable next generation LTE mobile broadband systems. It was formally launched in May 2007 by Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Orange, Nokia, Nokia Siemens Networks, Nortel, T-Mobile and Vodafone. Since its inception, LSTI has expanded to include China Mobile, Huawei, LG Electronics, NTT DoCoMo, NXP, Samsung, Signalion, Telecom Italia, Qualcomm, ZTE, Rohde and Schwarz, and now Motorola.

WIMAX struggling to get foothold!!

Buzz Broadband, which a year ago became one of the first carriers in the world to offer service using WiMAX Forum-certified hardware, says WiMAX has "failed miserably." Consequently, the Australian carrier has pulled the plug on its network.
Buzz CEO Garth Freeman shocked the audience at a WiMAX conference during a presentation in which he blasted the technology as being incapable of delivering the service promised and "mired in opportunistic hype." Despite those promises, he reportedly said, non-line-of-sight (NLOS) performance was "non-existent" beyond just two kilometers from the base station, indoor performance decayed at just 400 meters and latency rates reached as high as 1,000 milliseconds - making WiMAX unusable for VoIP. Because Buzz's business plan depends heavily on VoIP sales, that's a critical issue.

Freeman, saying his company has ditched its WiMAX gear and is replacing it with other wireless technologies -- TD-CDMA and wireless DOCSIS -- added that most WiMAX deployments were still in trials, that the technology is mainly being looked at by start-up carriers and that it's supported by what he termed "second-tier vendors."
Needless to say, the remarks have gotten Airspan, which supplied Buzz with its gear, more than slightly upset. Airspan too has something to say - Among the charges is that Buzz opted for Airspan's "Micro" base station, which has a known shorter range, rather than shelling out for the more expensive "Macro" base stations. Also being brought into question is the adequacy of Buzz's own backhaul network, both in terms of quality of service (QoS) and capacity to carry such traffic as VoIP. That would put the blame for poor VoIP on the backhaul system, rather than on WiMAX.

Other WiMAX supporters also are chiming in with a range of theories, starting with one everyone knows: that "fixed WiMAX" using 3.5 GHz spectrum (which is what Buzz was using) doesn't have good NLOS performance. Rather, the argument goes, 2.5 GHz "mobile WiMAX" solves that problem. Mobile WiMAX is the trade name for the technology most people expect Sprint will use for its Xohm wireless broadband project.

In another development that gave a blow to WIMAX reputation, bankrupt Canadian WiMAX pioneer SR Telecom is being sold at a blue light special bargain price of just $6 million, in a deal that will leave current shareholders in the publicly traded company with zero value for their equity - not that its worth much now at less than a penny a share.

SR Telecom is one of only 13 companies in the world that actually has certified WiMAX products - despite the marketing claims of dozens of other companies. But that hasn't helped the Canadian wireless broadband pioneer, which bet its future on WiMAX and now has lost.

But presently NSN has an EDGE

Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) has taken the wraps off a planned upgrade it says will double the data download bandwidth of EDGE technology handsets this year, leading to quadruple speed in the near-distant future. The size of wireless broadband bandwidth is a sore point, with users looking for ever-bigger pipes to handle emerging applications. Nokia Siemens' move keeps the EDGE technology viable for what could be years into the future, perhaps in some places forestalling 3G and filling in until the GSM market evolves into the massively faster Long Term Evolution (LTE).

A Nokia Siemens announcement now, even though it won't be ready to deliver the EDGE upgrade until the third quarter, also is thought to be a pre-emptive move to blunt Ericsson's recently disclosed plans to introduce similar capabilities by 2009. Ericsson would dearly love to steal away as much of market-leading Nokia Siemens' customer base as it can; NSN claims a GSM/EDGE installed base of 260 operator networks in 117 countries, with a total of more than 1.5 billion subscribers.

NSN says its speed upgrade is a "Dual Carrier EDGE" solution that offers double data speeds of as much as 592 Kb/s to existing EDGE-capable GSM networks. The upgrade is to software and firmware, with no hardware trade-outs needed. It's believed most current EDGE-capable handsets, including notably the iPhone, can be upgraded to the new speed, although it's not clear whether older model phones will be capable.

The jump to 592 Kb/s will be followed by what NSN called "the next substantial step, the so-called EGPRS 2," which will offer downlink speeds of as much as 1.2 Mb/s and will double uplink speed to up to 473 Kb/s, thus quadrupling the capabilities of those currently offered by EDGE networks.

By 2015, NSN expect to live in a broadband IP world with five billion people 'always on' and, therefore, NSN is committed to protecting customer investments and continue to implement leading EDGE technology. Dual-carrier software upgrade is an easy and extremely cost-efficient step to bring broadband user experience to GSM/EDGE networks.

China finally going 3G

China finally has given permission to start commercial trials of 3G cellular technology but, at this point, only of the country's home-grown Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access (TD-SCDMA). China has been promising some sort of 3G service in time for the international event of summer olympics, and the country's (and the world's) largest carrier, China Mobile, has now built TD-SCDMA networks in eight cities, including the five Olympic venues. Interestingly, the Chinese have not yet formally issued frequency spectrum allocations for 3G, but that's apparently going to be little more than a formality. Under its commercial trial license, China Mobile reveals, it's built a network with a capacity of some eight million users.

The launch of 3G in China has been an international political hot potato for years now, with other countries charging that the Chinese have been dragging their feet on 3G in order to give TD-SCDMA time to be developed. That's allegedly to prevent the use of other 3G standards - WCDMA and CDMA2000 - even though, technically, they have been made legal in China by a reportedly reluctant government caving in to international pressure. Still, reports are that there's major pressure on China Mobile, China Unicom and other carriers to "choose" TD-SCDMA, a situation that would thus favor Chinese manufacturers in what has emerged as the world's biggest single cellphone market. Carriers reportedly served 565 million mobile phone users by the end of last month, estimated at about a 43-percent penetration rate of the total available market.

SPECulation on spectrum TRUMped

As per Economic times, the indian government has today given in-principle approval for allocation of spectrum to GSM operators who have been waiting for frequency since 2006, CDMA players entering the GSM segment and to new aspirants in that order.
With this, Indian government has met GSM operators' demand that they should be given priority ahead of others in spectrum allocation. Among the beneficiaries, existing operators include Aircel, Vodafone-Essar and Idea cellular, while Reliance Communications, HFCL and Shyam Telecom would benefit under the dual technology clause. The process would begin by issuing Letters of Intent (LoIs) to all the eligible players. As regards new aspirants, according to an official statement, the government would issue LoIs to all the eligible applicants, who have applied before September 25, 2007, on a first-come-first serve basis.

The news was expected as this was an option that will ensure regular incremental income to Government of India (GOI). The government's revenue from spectrum fee levied from mobile operators is poised to more than double to Rs 7,000 crore in 2008-09, without really impacting the tariffs. The Department of Telecom (DoT) is reported to be working on enhancing spectrum charges, collected based on annual revenue, to the government and its implications on the tariff of telecom services. The idea for charging spectrum fee in this way is to ensure that the government gets incremental revenue over the years based on growth of the sector and keeps telecom services cheap as upfront auction charge would lead to higher initial investment which would be reflected in higher tariffs. In 2006-07, the government received about Rs 1,956 crore from mobile operators as spectrum charges and at current rate it is likely to increase to Rs 3,000 crore in 2007-08. However, if spectrum charges as percentage of gross revenue are enhanced by about 75 per cent, the government will get Rs 7,000 crore in 2008-09 and will grow every year without any impact on tariffs.

Currently the mobile operators pay 2 per cent of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) as spectrum charges for 4.4 MHz and 3 per cent for 6.2 MHz and this goes up to five per cent for 12 MHz of spectrum. DoT is of the view that these charges can be revised and that too without any impact on the tariffs. On the other hand idea of auctioning of spectrum may lead to legal implication as it would be a major departure from the existing policy. Telecom regulator TRAI, in its recent recommendations, has also not suggested auction of 2G spectrum.

Personally I feel that auctioning of spectrum would have resulted in impractical bid prices (as happened when DoT called for licence fee bids when mobile services started in India). Those who are new entrants will pay more because by grapping the spectrum at exorbitant rates they could have blocked the expansion plans of existing players (a move that might have given serious blow to telecom expansion in India). The existing players would forcefully have bid exorbitantly knowing their future depends only on the spectrum. As a result, the overall telecom growth in India would have been jeopardised.

Zain and the art of network expansion

I like this company's approach. If there is an opportunity, grab it.
Zain (formerly known as MTC) is a leading emerging markets player in the field of mobile telecommunications. The company was established in 1983 in Kuwait. It has grown exponentially becoming the 4th largest telecommunications company in the world in terms of geographic presence with a footprint in 22 countries spread across the Middle East and the African continent.
As of 8 September 2007, Zain became the company’s new corporate master brand name. Currently, the company is present in 7 Middle Eastern (inclusive of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and 15 sub-Saharan African countries (inclusive of the recent Ghana licence acquisition on October 22, 2007) with over 15,000 employees and 44 million active individual and business customers. The company operates under the Zain brand name in Kuwait, Sudan, Jordan, Iraq and Bahrain. In Lebanon the company operates as mtc-touch. The company plans to commence operations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the first half of 2008 under the Zain brand.
In Africa, Zain operates under the Celtel brand (www.celtel.com) currently in 14 sub-Saharan African countries namely: Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Celtel is the most successful pan-African mobile network, offering telecommunications services to more people in Africa than any other network. The addition of Ghana will expand Celtel’s presence to 15 countries.
The company had a market capitalization of over USD 26 billion on 1 January, 2008.

What's latest? Well Zain in Saudi Arabia had granted Nokia Siemens Networks a new greenfield contract that includes multi-year managed services, network operations and maintenance services.
The USD 935 million turnkey contract includes a full turnkey 2G and 3G mobile network, network planning, implementation, project management, systems integration, logistics management, multi-vendor maintenance, field services and network optimization for the base station sites.
Under the terms of the contract, Nokia Siemens Networks will provide to Zain in Saudi Arabia 2G and 3G mobile network technologies, including HSDPA and HSUPA, based on the latest base station design and distributed architecture for both radio access and core networks according to the 3GPP release 4 standard.
The compact Flexi base station design enables the customer to save significantly on capital and operational expenditure and allows for a fast rollout. With the distributed architecture of its mobile softswitch and multimedia gateway, Nokia Siemens Networks is able to offer Zain in Saudi Arabia a cost optimized core network solution with a fast rollout to enable new advanced services for subscribers.

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