By Syed Allauddin Fahad
Marketing Coordinator (TeleCard Limited)

Aug 08 - 14, 2005



Wireless Local Loop (WLL), also called Radio in the loop (RITL) or Fixed-radio access (FRA), has finally arrived in Pakistan having a great potential for telecom growth because of their relatively low tele density and it would play a very important role in the social and economic development of the country. During 2004, the telecom sector of Pakistan grew by 106 per cent. The cost of adding one fixed line in the total telecom capacity is very high (22k). Hence, WLL technology is preferred globally for network expansion. However, maintaining a mobile connection is not the optimum scenario for the masses specially in Pakistan mainly because of the calling rates.

Industry analysts had predicted that the global WLL market will reach millions of subscribers by the year 2000 and by the end of 2002 there were 339 million WLL lines installed throughout the world in which majority of the lines were installed in developing or emerging countries like China, India, Brazil, Russia, Pakistan and Indonesia, where half of the world's population lacks plain or ordinary telephone service.

Pakistan presents a large and growing telecom market of l50m people with Rs.100 billion current market size which is expected to be Rs.220 billion in the next five years. Whilst Telecom has emerged as a basic necessity in the 21st century as a catalyst for social and economic progress, Pakistan remains an underserved market with only 3 out of 100 people having phones!.

Economic imperatives and emerging technologies have opened the doors for WLL solutions in Pakistan and in other countries as well. WLL uses wireless technology that connects subscribers to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) using radio signals as a substitute for copper for all or part of the connection between the subscriber and the switch. Each WLL phone set is similar to a cordless in a sense that each set is only functional within a certain radius of its particular exchange. So the portability that they allow is only over a limited range, compared to mobile telephones, which can be used anywhere in the world because of their 'roaming' facility.

Due to widespread deployment earlier in 2000, Analog Cellular System like Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS), Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT), Total Access Communications Systems (TACS) and Narrowband-Advanced Mobile Phone System (NAMPS) were the major wireless platform for WLL, at least in the short term because it was best suited to serve low-density to medium-density markets that don't require landline-type feature but as digital cellular service like Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), Time-Division Multiple Access (TDMA), Hughes Enhanced TDMA (E-TDMA), and Code-Division Multiple Access (CDMA) introduced people the switching from analog to digital. Although like analog cellular, digital cellular has the benefit of wide availability but it can support higher capacity subscribers than analog cellular, and it also offers functionality that is better suited to emulate capabilities of advanced wire line networks but its disadvantage is that it is not as scalable as analog cellular.

PCS/PCN is another technology used for WLL which incorporates elements of digital cellular and cordless standards as well as newly developed radio-frequency (RF) protocols. Its purpose is to offer low-mobility wireless service using low-power antennas and lightweight, inexpensive handsets. (CT-2) Cordless telephony is another technology used which was originally developed to provide wireless access within a residence or business between a base station and a handset. DECT is capable of carrying higher levels of traffic, provides better voice quality, and can transmit data at higher rates but CDMA appears to be the standard best suited for WLL applications. CDMA employs a spread spectrum modulation technique in which a wide range of frequency is used for transmission and the system's low-power signal is spread across wide-frequency bands. It offers higher capacity than the other digital standards (10 to 15 times greater than analog cellular), relatively high-quality voice, and a high level of privacy.



Recently the Pakistan government has obtained Rs.13.73 billion from the auction for the purchase of four frequency spectrums out of that the most coveted was the 1.9 GHz spectrum, which fetched Rs11.3 billion - almost 82 per cent of the total auction proceeds. Tele Card grabbed this spectrum in 9/14 regions with a total bid amount of Rs3.2 billion. Other successful bidders were PTCL, DVCOM, and World Call Telephony (World Call). On 12th January, 2005 TeleCard Limited, the first operator in the private sector to offer an integrated telecommunication solutions in the country has now launched Wireless Local Loop (WLL) service with a brand name of GO CDMA.

The launch of the GO CDMA WLL service would revolutionize the way people communicate in Pakistan as the quality and services are much better and not to forget the rates. TeleCard has also completed a 3rd generation wireless communication technology by commercializing the country's first CDMA 2000 1X service. TeleCard has got LDI (long distance and international) licence, and will be one of the carriers competing with PTCL. LDI will be a value added service by TeleCard which offers international calling to consumers in a different way. At least you will not be hearing old voices again of operators for sure. TeleCard has also brought the revolution in the market by allowing incoming calls on local PCOs' so-called Foree Fone. TeleCard has more than 40,000 GO CDMA connections active in the market and more than 50,000 active connections both wire line and wireless. TeleCard also have approximately three switching facilities with over 150 cell sites and its network reaches over 800 cities and towns.

All these factors clearly indicate that TeleCard is well positioned to play a leading role in helping Pakistan communicate! TeleCard -an embodiment of technology, people, and a vision that reaches for the world of tomorrow--- today and some analysts are of the view that this revolution will enable every individual to talk, learn, shop, bank, transact, entertain and be informed, while on the move. Bill Frezza, President of Wireless Computing Associates, calls WLL "the hot telecom growth industry of the next decade."

The architecture and functionality of GO CDMA's network is dynamic to keep pace with the evolution of technology in the future. The changing paradigm in the telecom sector would not only connect people but also improve the quality of life, develop intellectual capital, enhance productivity, create new businesses, build partnerships, and enroll Pakistan in the information age.

GO CDMA offers schemes which suit every pocket whether you are a corporate executive or the common man who want to stay in touch with family, friends or office. GO CDMA offers features like SMS, voice mail, CLI, prepaid billing option, record of calls, history of dialed and received calls, free incoming calls, conference calling, call forwarding even when your phone is switched off or you are out of the service area. It also offers high speed internet connectivity which will also facilitate people in rural areas in many ways specially in education, option of mobile or a desktop set, free minutes along with the cheapest rate as low as 40 paisas. The WLL facility would connect subscribers to the world in a seamless way and will ruin out mobile phones from the market, especially amongst the working class because of its features. Beside that WLL has a much lower incremental investment cost than copper, and it is much cheaper to deploy at lower subscriber densities. Ease & speed of service implementation, scalability, versatility, maintenance and reliability make WLL the preferred alternative from an economic standpoint with renowned hardware vendors worldwide like Intel, IBM, Lucent, Comsat, Alcatel, AT&T Wireless, Cisco, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, Nortel, Panasonic, Siemens, etc.

In summary, there are clear market opportunities in emerging economies like Pakistan for WLL, as well as an enormous potential. The potential market is huge, but its various segments require the right system costs and features. As can be seen, no one system is best for all applications. The right choice should be based on subscriber densities, traffic conditions, and data-support requirements. The conventional wisdom that microcellular (cordless) systems are better for urban areas and that macro cellular (cellular) systems are better for rural areas is not true in all conditions.