Himanshu Kapania, the managing director of Idea Cellular has downplayed the need for fibre-optic networks for high speed mobile broadband, calling the platform ‘overrated,’ and stating that microwave links are capable of servicing current demand. The Economic Times quotes the executive as saying: ‘There is no need for it now. How do you justify putting up such cost ahead of demand?’ The comments were prompted by comparisons between the INR1 trillion (USD14.9 billion) network of newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJIL) – which is supported by fibre-optic infrastructure but has yet to launch services – and those of the nation’s existing cellcos, the majority of which use microwave-based backbone networks.
The official dismissed RJIL’s perceived advantage, however, pointing out that capacities being created by cellcos exceeded demand. According to Mr Kapania, demand for data transmission can be satisfied by wireless backhaul over the next three to four years. By the time that demand begins to catch up with capacity, the government’s national fibre optic network, Bharat Net, could be accessible to all operators. The official went on to say that the global focus on fibre has been driven by fixed line providers, but as a pure play mobile operator the investment is not needed immediately. Mr Kapania added the caveat, however, that: ‘When we add spectrum to handle significantly higher capacity, we will look at it’.