India’s 3g/4G Auction: On the Move

India’s long-delayed auction of 3G and WiMax spectrum, is finally moving forward, reports Unstung today. India’s Department of Telecom has now set the base prices for the country’s 3G and WiMax spectrum.

The starting price for each slot of 3G spectrum is 35 billion Indian Rupees (US$716.4 million), lower than the ($827 million) price previously signaled by the government but higher than the original ($413.5 million) price suggested. Three available blocks of WiMax spectrum will be auctioned separately in the 2.3 and 2.5GHz band.

Five blocks of pan-India 3G spectrum are available, but one has already been allocated and divided up between state-owned carriers Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) , which have already launched their initial 3G services. MTNL operates in the metro service areas, or “circles,” of New Delhi and Mumbai, while BSNL operates in the other 20 circles.

That leaves four blocks for the 3G auction, which is now set to take place before the end of November. The designated spectrum blocks are in the 2.1GHz band.

Cellular Operators Association of India, or COAI – a body representing mobile phone operators under the GSM technology – was disappointed with the price, reports the Wall Street Journal. “It will be an unviable business case… be it 2G, or 3G, it’s a price sensitive market. Operators can’t afford to run [services] in a price like this,” said T.V. Ramachandran, COAI’s director-general, adding that many potential bidders will be put off by the price.

Three available blocks of WiMax spectrum in the 2.3 and 2.5GHz band have a separate base price set at INR17.5 billion ($358 million). The Government intends to allocate 4 blocks of unpaired 20MHz spectrum in each of the 22 service areas (pdf), with 2 blocks in the 2.3GHz band and 2 blocks in the 2.5GHz band. One block in the 2.5GHz band will be reserved for MTNL (in Delhi and Mumbai) and BSNL (in all other service areas) and the remaining 3 blocks will be put up for auction.

Local media reports from the Economic Times, quote telecom minister A Raja as saying the government expects to raise INR250 billion ($5.11 billion) from the spectrum sales.

The 3G auction had been set to take place early this year, but was subject to repeated delays that have allowed BSNL and MTNL to steal a march on their privately owned rivals. (See: India Faces 3G Delay)

Bharti TeleVentures, Reliance, SIFY, BSNL and VSNL (Tata Group) have all acquired WiMAX licenses in 3.3 GHz range and are in various stages of trials. The Economic Times of India reports that Tata Communications (TCL) has signed up 50,000 subscribers for its fixed WiMAX service.

India is now the second largest wireless market in the world. India’s mobile operators added 11.59 million subscribers in May, taking the country’s total to 415.25 million, according to the latest figures from Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

China had 627.3 million mobile-phone users at the end of October, 2008, making it the largest telecommunications market by far. The United States is the 3rd largest wireless market, according to the CTIA. The CTIA reports there were about 270 million total wireless subscribers in the USA at the end of 2008, with about 87% penetration. They include Verizon (86M), AT&T (78M), Sprint (49M) and T-Mobile USA (30M) which total about 243 million.

Infonetics Research forecasts the worldwide WiMAX equipment and devices market to hit $4.9 billion in 2013, predominantly driven by developing countries.

In other news, mobile phone operator China Unicom plans to start selling two versions of the iPhone in China in the fourth quarter of 2009, under a three-year deal, an Apple representative confirmed Friday morning. It plans to keep the price modest by offering subsidies to customers, according to The Wall Street Journal. The agreement does not include revenue sharing. In accordance with Chinese regulations, the iPhones will be sold with their Wi-Fi function disabled, the Journal reported.

Related Dailywireless articles include; India Sets 3G Auction Price Higher, WiMax: East Meets West, China Mobile: Slow TD-SCDMA Sales.

MobileTV App for Android

SPB TV for Android phones, announced today, a subscription-free mobile IPTV viewer, designed for tuning in to publicly available digital TV channels from all over the world.

Developer SPB Software says the SPB TV features exclusive and patent-pending usability innovations like picture-in-picture mode, and gives the mobile subscribers easy access to over a hundred of international TV channels, directly from their phones.

The freeware version has limited features and channels. A full version is available for 9.95 USD from the Android Market. SPB TV requires a reliable 3G or WiFi network connection for proper streaming.

SPB TV 1.0 is available for smartphones running Android 1.5 with HVGA screen resolutions, as well as Windows Phones running Windows Mobile 5 and later Professional and Standard editions, S60 3d edition FP1 or higher, qVGA, VGA, Square QVGA, and WVGA screen resolutions are supported.

SPB Software says it’s been a stratigic partner for many carriers, who manage a wide range of mobile devices. With this release SPB TV becomes available for Windows Mobile, Symbian and Android platforms providing diverse mobile carrier customers with the next generation mobile TV experience.

In other video-related news, Portland’s Rick Turoczy, who writes Silicon Florist Blog, which covers local startups, is now producing a weekly video called memePDX.

Hosted by Rick and Cami Kaos of Strange Love Live, it features both local and national tech developments.

Newsy.com is a multiperspective online video news site that synthesizes video news clips.

Newser’s coverage of Apple’s rejection of Google Voice (above), illustrates their approach to video aggregating.

Related Dailywireless articles include, WHERE Hybrid GPS Location Info and Ocean Observatories: The Ultimate Splash Page.

Smartphones: Data Tsunami Coming

Smartphones are double-edged swords for carriers. They attract big-spending customers, but tax networks designed for simpler times, explains Fortune.

Independent telecom analyst Chetan Sharma estimates that the typical wireless subscriber consumes 120 megabytes each month; typical iPhone owners use four times that.

And it’s just getting worse. By 2010, global mobile data traffic is expected to exceed 200 terabytes per month, six times last year’s levels, according to Cisco Systems.

“3G networks were not designed effectively for this kind of usage,” says John Donovan, AT&T’s chief technology officer, referring to the current generation of broadband wireless. “We fight the day-to-day guerrilla warfare as the customers move around.”

Many of AT&T’s 60,000 cell towers need to be upgraded, with new 850 MHz gear and backhaul. That could cost billions of dollars, and AT&T has kept a lid on capital spending during the recession. AT&T will delay their LTE upgrade, upgrading its HSPA 3G network from 3.6 Mbps to 7.2 Mbps, instead.

Verizon plans to have 30 US LTE Markets by 2010. Verizon will use their nation-wide 700 MHz band. The carrier hopes to have a data-only LTE trial service available in Seattle and Boston later this year.

It can’t come soon enough. The tsunami is about to hit. Android phones from Samsung, LG, and Motorola are due in stores by early 2010. Motorola will launch their Android portfolio on September 10th. The data-oriented Palm Pre, which operates on Palm’s WebOS platform, is already on Sprint and should be in Verizon stores early next year.

A Cisco Mobile Forecast for 2008-2013 noted that a single high-end data phone today generates more data traffic than 30 basic-feature cell phones, while a single laptop air card generates more data traffic than 450 basic-feature cell phones. Cisco projects that mobile data traffic will increase a thousand-fold over the seven years from 2005 through 2012, with video being a significant component.

AT&T offers free Starbucks WiFi (with a paid data subscription) while Verizon is partnering with Boingo to deliver free WiFi access at hotels, airports, restaurants and coffee shops (with a data plan). PCCW, the Hong Kong operator, has started using Wi-Fi hot spots to ease the load from smartphones and its digital TV service.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has said that the most active 5% or so of data users are causing problems for the other 95%. AT&T is working on a revamped data plan whereby light data users would pay less, and heavy users would pay a premium rate — or leave.

Related Dailywireless articles include; AT&T Makes Jump to HSDPA Speed, AT&T: HSPA+ Not LTE for Now, LTE Marketing Ramps Up, Sweden Tests LTE, Verizon LTE: 30 US Markets by 2010, Verizon Updates 700MHz LTE Specs, WHERE on T-Mobile’s Web2go, AT&T Adding 25,000 Hotspots Overseas, Future Bleak for WiMAX?, Movies on Demand for Motorola and iPhone, ABI: Cellular Data Too Expensive, The Death Of Paid WiFi, The App Store: Year One Revolution, The iPhone: A 2nd Economy?, Verizon: Free WiFi with DSL/FiOS, Mobile Supercomputing, Sweden Tests LTE, Sweden Tests LTE, Verizon LTE: 30 US Markets by 2010, Verizon Calls on LTE, AWS: It’s Done, 700MHz: It’s Done!,

Augmented Reality: 3 Apps for That

Social review service Yelp has snuck the first Augmented Reality (AR) iPhone app specifically for the US into the iTunes App Store, reports ReadWriteWeb. It uses the phone’s GPS and compass to display markers for restaurants, bars and other nearby businesses on top of the camera’s view.

One hour later, ReadWriteWeb reports: The Wall Has Fallen: 3 Augmented Reality Apps Now Live in iPhone App Store.

Presselite, the same company made Paris Metro Subway, now has a London Bus app, updated to include AR overlays and is also live in the App Store.

The Subway application can find nearby points of interest, wi-fi zones and cafes on a Google Map. Each subway station is represented by a red pin, a popup shows you the distance of localisation for each station, and it is updated live via GPS as you walk.

ReadWriteWeb says it has been widely reported that the API required to display Augmented Reality (AR) layers would not be publicly exposed until the launch of the next version of the iPhone Operating System, expected this Fall. Some, apparently, have found a way around the restriction.

Wikitude, Layar and an unlaunched iPhone browser from AcrossAir are also launching AR. Wikitude’s Wikitude.me markup language runs on Android handsets. It provides an open, free mobile information platform to provide location based information or services via mobile phones.

WeoGeo uses maps to help you find spatial data. The WeoGeo Library Appliance, which manages survey, engineering, architectural and other mapping files for large companies, acts like an iTunes Store for digital maps.

Related Location services articles on Dailywireless include; Web2go Localizes Media, Ocean Observatories: The Ultimate Splash Page, Google Crowdsources Live Traffic on Maps, Rental Bikes: Free with Location-based Apps?, Tom Tom: $99 iPhone Navigation App, Location-based Apps from Navigon and Skyhook, Loopt on Sprint Instinct, and Navigation: There’s an App for That.

FCC to Investigate Wireless Competition

The Federal Communications Commission decided unanimously on Thursday to review the state of “innovation” in the wireless industry (pdf), reports C/Net. The FCC will investigate (pdf) the state of innovation and competition in the U.S. wireless market, indicating that more regulation may be coming to the industry.

The FCC will look for ways it can stimulate innovation and competition, said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski (pdf). The agency will take a three-pronged approach in its investigation:

  • Innovation and investment in the wireless market (pdf)
  • “Competitive conditions” (pdf)
  • Consumer billing practices (pdf)

It plans to ask industry players and the public to comment on the issues and summarize its findings in a report that could lead to new regulations.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said (pdf) he favored policies that promote “investment, competition and consumers.” He also noted that the industry is at a “pivotal moment” as consumers seek to do more with their mobile devices and cellphones.

But the commission’s two Republicans questioned whether the FCC should get significantly involved in pushing for more innovation and competition. Ninety-four percent of U.S. residents have at least four mobile carriers to choose from, said Commissioner Robert McDowell.

Over the past seven years, the mobile-phone industry has invested an average of US$22.8 billion a year to update networks and provide broadband services, added Republican Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker. “We stand on the verge of the next generation of wireless broadband products, and the government should proceed with great caution so as to ensure the best outcome for consumers,” she said.

The FCC is already examining the wireless industry’s practice of locking some handsets to particular carriers and, following a controversy involving a Google Voice application for the iPhone, looking at the way Apple vets submissions to its App Store.

The CTIA, which represents more than 200 wireless companies, says the average U.S. consumer pays 5 cents per minute for voice service — a rate cheaper than other advanced telecom markets, such as the U.K., Germany, South Korea and Japan, according the the organization (pdf).

Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest group said, “The Commission took exactly the right path today when it voted to look at all aspects of competition in the wireless industry. For too long, the appearance of competition among a few carriers has masked underlying anti-competitive industry practices ranging from consumer contracts to roaming agreements.”

Stimulus: Government Receives 2,200 applications requesting $28 billion

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) announced today that they received almost 2,200 applications requesting nearly $28 billion in funding for proposed broadband projects reaching all 50 U.S. states.

This is the first round of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding aimed at expanding broadband access, with $4 billion available through loans, grants, and loan/grant combinations.

A preliminary analysis of applicant-reported data shows that NTIA and RUS received requests for grants and loans totaling nearly $28 billion. When including about $10.5 billion in matching funds committed by the applicants, there are over $38 billion in proposed broadband projects.

The applications break down as follows:

Infrastructure

  • More than 260 applications were filed solely with NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), requesting over $5.4 billion in grants to fund broadband infrastructure projects in unserved and underserved areas.
  • More than 400 applications were filed solely with RUS’s Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP), requesting nearly $5 billion in grants and loans for broadband infrastructure projects in rural areas.
  • More than 830 applications were filed with both NTIA’s BTOP and RUS’s BIP, requesting nearly $12.8 billion in infrastructure funding. (Applicants for infrastructure projects in rural areas must apply to BIP but were given the opportunity to jointly apply to BTOP in case RUS declines to fund their application.)

Sustainable Broadband Adoption

  • More than 320 applications were filed with NTIA requesting nearly $2.5 billion in grants from BTOP for projects that promote sustainable demand for broadband services, including projects to provide broadband education, awareness, training, access, equipment or support, particularly among vulnerable population groups where broadband technology has traditionally been underutilized. (The Recovery Act directs NTIA to make at least $250 million available for programs that encourage sustainable adoption of broadband services, of which up to $150 million is allocated in this first round of grants.)

Public Computer Centers

  • More than 360 applications were filed with NTIA requesting more than $1.9 billion in grants from BTOP for public computer center projects, which will expand access to broadband service and enhance broadband capacity at public libraries, community colleges, and other institutions that provide the benefits of broadband to the general public or specific vulnerable populations. (The Recovery Act directs NTIA to make at least $200 million available for expanding public computer center capacity, of which up to $50 million is allocated in this first round of grants.)

In the coming weeks, NTIA and RUS will post online a searchable database containing summaries of all applications received. The dollar figures cited today represent applicants’ self-reported totals from proposals submitted before the August 20, 2009, deadline at 5 p.m. ET.

TowerStream says it is applying for $100 million to $120 million under the Broadband Technologies Initiative Program (BTOP). The money will be used to provide “for areas in and around major cities that don’t have adequate Internet access,” including Atlanta, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix and San Diego. The company has also applied for BTOP funds in its existing markets: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco and Seattle, says Unstrung.

Related “stimulus” stories on Dailywireless include; Motorola + SkyTerra Team for 700 MHz/Sat Radios, WildBlue: $30M, Shovel-ready, Free Money: Round Two, KeyOn Applies for $150M to Expand 3.65 Ghz WiMAX, Cricket & One Economy Team on Digital Divide, Sprint Announces Smart Grid Ambitions, Meraki Talks Up WiFi Stimulus, Broadband Mapping Grants Awarded, Broadband Nation: A New Moonshot, T-30 Days for The First $4B, and Broadband Jobs?