India is apparently following in China’s footsteps in the field of network development, as its telecoms department has reportedly detailed swathes of 2G and 3G spectrum to be “exclusively used for developing indigenous telecommunications networks.”
A similar approach taken in China resulted in the development of China Mobile’s TD-SCDMA 3G technology, and India’s telecoms authorities are evidently hoping to recreate this success: the government has stated that the future economic impact of developing new tech will offset the short-term losses incurred by not selling the spectrum.
Ultimately, this strategy is aimed at increasing India’s independence; the development of indigenous network architecture will allow India to reduce not only its reliance on foreign vendors, but also its expenditure on imported telecoms equipment.
Whether India is aiming at directly emulating China’s approach – i.e. developing alternative 3G technology – or if it intends to adapt existing architecture is not yet apparent. Domestic development of new technology would certainly sit well with India’s government, which caused a stir among the international vendor community last year by calling for a crackdown on all imported network equipment.
However, taking an independent approach could stall the spread of 3G; China’s government in fact took action to prevent proven foreign 3G technologies from gaining ground in the country, with the result that 3G subscribers make up only around 5% of China’s total.
Wireless Intelligence figures indicate that China Mobile’s TD-SCDMA network is used by under 4% of its total 585 million subscribers, while China Unicom’s WCDMA network is used by 8% of its customers – somewhat underwhelming figures when compared to international markets.
Home-grown Indian 3G architecture could also face problems due to the greater competition in the Indian market; China Mobile’s significant subscriber numbers have allowed it to procure support for TD-SCDMA from foreign vendors.