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CDMA industry seeks growth

Operator-independent CDMA phones, cost-effectiveness and lack of GSM spectrum show positive signs for CDMA growth.

As per Qualcomm, a company that serves the wireless industry, there are 110 million CDMA subscribers in India at present; the number accounts for about 20 per cent of the total mobile subscribers in the country.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI’s) figures on the telecom sector’s performance between January 2009 and September 2009 show that there has been a constant fall in the number of additional CDMA subscribers with every quarter. The sector saw a growth of seven per cent during January to March 2009, four per cent during April-June 2009 and one per cent during July-September 2009. This trend highlights the fact that the CDMA market is steadily declining.
As a result, the CDMA players – including operators, handset manufacturers and companies – are now trying to make this segment more profitable for both, consumers and themselves.
Making a move towards this, the USA-based trade association, CDMA Development Group (CDG), had launched an initiative known as Open Market Handsets (OMH) in early 2008, which enables handset interoperability among OMH-compliant operators. OMH handsets can use cards of any CDMA operator, and hence, are operator-independent. For example: If a subscriber is using a Micromax mobile phone, he can insert the SIM card of either Tata Indicom, Reliance Communications, Virgin Mobile or MTS, and use it for both voice and data.

The concept of OMH was introduced in India in August 2009 and the industry is now positive about the growth of the industry. Sandeep Sibal, country manager and vice-president of technology, Qualcomm India and South Asia, told reporters at a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday, “OMH is creating a greater selection of devices for consumers. It increases handset availability and variety, allows the same device to be used with multiple operators and uplifts handset tier and subscriber ARPU (average revenue per user). We will see the launch of more than 25 OMH-compliant handsets this year. Qualcomm as a chipset vendor will ensure that all chips for devices and dongles are OMH-compliant.”

Atul Joshi, head of sales, MTS, added, “CDMA players are well positioned to capture the future industry growth in India. It is the right time for the CDMA industry. We are positioned better than GSM players since has not yet been launched by GSM players and they are facing congestion problems due to lack of spectrum. Moreover, CDMA has cost advantage for rural areas.”
Samsung launched the first Indian OMH-compliant handset, Mpower 699. Currently, Tata Indicom, Reliance Communications, MTS, Virgin Mobile, Samsung, Micromax and Qualcomm are part of the OMH alliance in India, and there are five OMH-compliant handsets in the market. The CDG is now taking OMH to South East Asia, Bangladesh and Nigeria.

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