British Telecom of the UK is considering a low-powered global system for mobile communications service in India, which can bring down the costs significantly on calls made by mobile phones inside offices.
Speaking to Business Standard, BT Global Services chief executive officer Andy Green said, "Low-powered GSM is part of our 21st century network solution and we are ready to explore, if it is allowed, in India."
India does not issue separate licences for such services. Existing GSM licence holders can go ahead and offer the service, but given their outdoor orientation, the viability may be an issue.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had some time ago suggested the possibility of such networks in the country.
Says T V Ramachandran, secretary-general of Cellular Operators Association of India, "We are already looking at using in-built networks or low-powered GSM in places such as the new Bangalore airport as this is the best way to provide coverage in congested areas where spectrum is limited. Currently, you can operate these networks on existing spectrum."
In countries such as the UK, the regulator has issued a number of low-power GSM licences that can be operated by independent operators on a spectrum different from that given to GSM operators.
UK telecom regulator Ofcom issued several licences in early-2006 to BT and Colt Telecom among others.
Low-powered GSM is a technology in which small low-powered GSM cell sites are located within a building, on which runs a small localised mobile network.
In simple terms, you can use your mobile phone to make a call outside the building - the call will be connected through the low-powered GSM network in the building.
Instead of using a fixed phone you can call local extensions in office through short codes with no extra cost through the mobile phone.
Similarly calls made by others on your extension at office will directly come on your mobile phone wherever you are. However, once the subscriber moves out of the office the call will be seamlessly transferred onto his GSM network operator.
The advantage is cheaper call rates for subscribers and large saving of scarce spectrum for GSM operators.
This system has a number of benefits for service providers as well as users. The key driver is the fact that an average 70 per cent of all mobile calls happen when the user is stationary. In addition, most calls are made when users are in their office.
Given the spectrum crunch - there is not enough of it - for the growing number of users in India, especially in the cities, low-powered GSM may be a solution to improve network quality and reduce congestion.This will also result in the convergence of fixed and mobile devices.