A new wave

High or low, far or wide, cellular communication systems are poised to conquer them all

Published: Monday 15 January 1996

-- (Credit: Rustam Vania)WHILE cellular operating requirements in India vary greatly from state to state, one thing is certain - the demand for personal communications is increasing at a fantastic pace. India is currently witnessing a cellular frenzy which will boom in the next few years. What does the future hold for Indian telephone subscribers and how will operators cope with the drive for increased service, coverage and flexibility?

India's geography is highly varied constituting deserts, marshes and thick inaccessible jungles among other kinds of terrains, which makes it highly unsuitable for fixed telephone line systems. This means that people in many areas will ultimately have to rely on mobile cellular communications, particularly for business purposes.

Originally conceived as a mobile, vehicle-based system for business use, cellular technology is now dominated by business and personal demands for handportables. Users here will ultimately expect their personal phones to work in urban, suburban and rural environments, in tunnels, in streets, in buildings, in lifts and even on their tables in restaurants.

Given the limited power output of hand- portables, these requirements represent significant challenges to the network operator. The fact that all calls are not restricted to in-car use means that much greater capacity is now required and coverage must be three-dimensional. Demands for higher portability would compel operators to install more base stations. Half-rate codec and microcellular underlays are some developments which will work to satisfy the huge demand for cellular coverage.

A recent ITU/OECD report stated that investment in telecommunications facilities generated reciprocal investment in trade, industry and agriculture - at a rate which averages 4 times the level of investment in telecommunications.

This means that operators will be more inclined to cater to urban populations. Unfortunately, this may force many areas to suffer from inadequate communication facilities. To overcome this, India is already considering cellular technology as an option for providing a viable alternative to land lines. Indeed, a recent ITU study showed that the average cost per subscriber of a cellular facility in some countries is lower than a fixed line provision.

One thing is certain, the emerging telecommunications bazaar in India is a unique market which holds much potential for overseas suppliers and local equipment manufacturers.

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