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Nokia WiLL struggles to fit the bill

New Delhi, Dec 4: Nokia, the world’s largest cellphone maker and the pioneer of the global system for mobile communications (GSM) which powers cellular telephony services in India, is trying valiantly to hawk its own version of a limited GSM service to cut the ground from the WiLL-based limited mobility service that basic telephony operators have launched in the country.

But the trouble is that the cellular service providers aren't biting the bait — because they see no moolah in a restricted-GSM service. The service is designed to offer a mobility service within a radius of 25 kms — which means the cellphone will not work if you go outside the restricted zone.

The WiLL (wireless in local loop) service that the basic operators are offering — Big Daddy Reliance plans a national rollout of its telecom service on December 28 — is based on the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology that has been developed by Qualcomm and Motorola, both great rivals of Nokia.

The Bharti group — one of the largest cellular players in the country — has already rejected Nokia's plans to set up a pilot project to develop its limited mobility service for GSM arguing that the technology has had only limited success in the US and Mexico. Sources said Nokia Networks India had approached leading cellular mobile operators with its offer of a limited mobility technology but met with no success.

“It is a fight between the two technologies that has reached a flashpoint as in the US and Europe. The future adoption of these technologies by the operators will decide the future of CDMA and GSM in India. Currently, the regulatory issues are an impediment to wider use of GSM in India,” said a senior member of the Cellular Operators Association of India.

“It is a premature attempt by the manufacturer to hawk a technology which has not been very well tested. None of the cellular operators will commit to investment at a time when the regulatory and policy issues are not clear on limited mobility. Though the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal has said that GSM operators can offer limited mobility, no operator will make any commitments for another six months,” the COAI executive added.

The Finnish telecom giant is targeting cellular operators using GSM technology as potential customers for its WiLL products based on the 800 megahertz band. However, if a cellular operator wants to offer limited mobility service, the company will need a basic service licence since limited mobility based on a WiLL application has been offered as part of basic licence by the government.

Many companies like Bharti, Tata, and Shyam Telecom have licences for both basic and cellular services and have already invested in building the infrastructure to offer limited mobility as well as cellular services using CDMA and GSM technologies respectively. This is another reason why Nokia is unable to tout the virtues of its service.

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