Press Coverage


GSM growing pains – Next wave of subscriber growth to come from low-ARPU markets

By Ouida Taaffe

If you sell jam doughnuts, you can probably expect regular, on-going demand for your product. If, on the other hand, you sell GSM infrastructure, revenues may well be a little 'lumpier' - even if your customers are not. This is, analysts argue, one of the reasons why developing markets are of great interest to infrastructure vendors.

However, ARPUs in developing regions can look very small from a Western European perspective. Where an operator in the UK or Germany would expect a blended post-paid and pre-paid ARPU of over £20 a month - O2, for example had a Q3, 2005 annualised ARPU of £272 (€397) - operators in developing countries might expect an ARPU that is not that much more than a tenth of that.

The reason for this, of course, is that gross national income (GNI) per capita in developing countries can be extremely modest. According to World Bank figures for 2004, Luxembourg (with around 468,000 people) led the global earnings pack with an annual GNI of US$56,230 per head (it was also first in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) with US$61,220 per person, per annum). In contrast, India with a population of around 1.1 billion, had an annual GNI of US$620 per head (PPP was $3,300) and Nigeria, which has around 130 million people, had a GNI of US$390 (PPP of $930).
Despite such yawning gaps in purchasing power, there is - vendors argue - still good telecom business to be had in developing countries. "Most [developing region] operators are profitable down to ARPU levels of US$6-7 a month," says Johan Bergendahl, vice president of marketing at Ericsson. "That means incomes need to be in the range of around US$2,000 a year for people to be able to afford to spend around four per cent of their income on telecom. We aim, over the next 2-3 years, to lower the profitable ARPU range so that those earning US$600-800 a year can also be targeted."

Further, Bergendahl says that if operators hand over full network management to Ericsson, the vendor can - depending on country - already bring that profitable ARPU number down to US$4 a month.

Assuming, however, that operators run the networks themselves - and taking World Bank GNI figures - this would mean that of the 208 nations surveyed by the bank in 2004, around 160 of them would have a GNI per capita that could support high GSM penetration. Ericsson expects that around 80 per cent of subscriber growth over the next two years will come from emerging markets and that, by 2008, around three billion people could be GSM subscribers. How can this be done in practice?

According to Sylvain Fabre, an analyst with Gartner Group, the equipment used in the developed world is "lower price and lower spec". Bergendahl, however, says that the GSM infrastructure being rolled out in developing countries is not necessarily a cheaper version of that used elsewhere. "When rollouts first started, the aim was to get the price down. Now, the cost of ownership issues are not so different in Sweden as opposed to, say, India," says Bergendahl. "Competitive forces are pretty strong in Western Europe."

It could, of course, be argued that Chinese vendors like Huawei, which have targeted developing markets and are rumoured to pass on access to low-cost capital as advantageous vendor financing, concentrate minds at least as much as big Western European operators do.

That said, Bergendahl also suggests that cutting corners in developing markets can have unfortunate consequences. "Delivering cheap equipment with low functionality or capacity is a bad move in these countries," he says. "80-90 per cent of new subscribers will come from areas that already have coverage, so the issue for operators will be 'how do I increase capacity in a cost-effective way'." This, he adds, means upgrading - rather than stripping out - old boxes. Bergendahl argues that having a base station with advanced functionality, as opposed to the bare minimum, will allow operators to increase capacity at 30 per cent of the cost seen over the past two years.

However, developing markets do not just have subscribers with limited budgets, operators can also be severely financially constrained, points out Alvarion, the Israeli-based equipment vendor. "Companies like Ericsson don't really target the tier three cellular operators," argues Rudy Leser, vice president of marketing at Alvarion. Alvarion has what it calls a 'network in a box' GSM solution that, he says, can provide a 'full network' giving coverage of around 10,000 subscribers for around US$2 m. The product is not specifically aimed at developing markets, and does not aim to serve low-ARPU customers per se. For example, it also finds deployment in environments such as airports, cruise ships, or islands.

Many developing countries are rolling out mobile networks because they lack telecom infrastructure of any sort. Of course, where there is no fixed network there is generally no broadband, which means a yawning digital divide. Mobile will, Bergendahl believes, be able to bridge this gap.

"Operators definitely have mobile data services on their roadmaps. There is also a big interest in the next step beyond traditional data to services like IPTV," he says. Operators in Nigeria, according to Bergendahl, see a business case mobile TV at a cost of around US$20 a month. This is, of course, not cheap by Nigerian standards, but satellite TV, which has no local content, costs around three times as much. Further, video services - even if they are priced beyond mass-market levels - can have a strong draw in countries where many people are illiterate.

There have often been suggestions that WiMAX, which promises high and long-distance capacity from a more limited number of base stations than GSM, could be the right solution for the provision of data, and later, mobile services in developing countries. The mobile iteration of the WiMAX standard, 802.16e, is due to be released in 2007.

"The difference in cost between GSM and WiMAX is not that enormous," says Bergendahl of this. He argues that, by the time mobile WiMAX is ready for deployment in 2008-2010, technologies such as HSDPA will be widespread and able to command economies of scale. "The WiMAX business case is not that clear," says Bergendahl.

Alvarion, which bases much of its business on WiMAX equipment, agrees that WiMAX is unlikely to replace GSM and that it will not be the cost-killer that has sometimes been envisaged. "It will take a while for WiMAX to get to the same kind of price," says Leser. "Mobile WiMAX will go first to developed countries."

However, Leser does believe that WiMAX has a strong future as a broadband technology in developing countries where fixed infrastructure is limited. "There is a clear need for broadband at an addressable cost," he says - though this cost will be well above that commanded by 'low-ARPU' GSM operations. According to Leser, Reliance Infocomm and 'other operators' in India aim to roll out WiMAX in 80 Indian cities. The reason for this is that there are two main segments in India that promise to be very lucrative. The first is the SME market. Indian SMEs are considered likely to spend upwards of several hundred dollars a month on a high-speed and reliable broadband connection. The second segment is the high-end consumer market, where ARPUs could be in the US$10-US$30 a month range, Leser says. Demand for WiMAX in China, which is often perceived to be key, will be a reflection of regulatory developments that are still unclear he adds

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Freescale Supplies Application-critical Silicon for Alvarion WiMAX-ready Platform

Leading provider of wireless broadband access equipment chooses Freescale's PowerQUICCTM III processor for WiMAX base station

TEL AVIV, Israel (Freescale Technology Forum) - Sept. 19, 2005 - With successful WiMAX trials and deployments now underway, the evolution of broadband wireless access (BWA) is gaining momentum. Freescale Semiconductor (NYSE:FSL, FSL.B) is helping to drive this evolution by providing advanced communications processing to Alvarion Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ:ALVR), a leading supplier of broadband wireless access solutions based on the 802.16-2004 and 802.16e standards for WiMAX systems.

Alvarion has chosen Freescale's most advanced PowerQUICCTM III processor containing a PowerPC® core to handle the complex, multi-protocol host-processing functions for a WiMAX base station designed to support both fixed and mobile broadband connectivity.

"We are pleased to announce our decision to integrate Freescale's next-generation PowerQUICC III communications processors into our WiMAX platform solutions," said Dr. Zeev Roth, Alvarion's Chief Technology Officer. "This integration provides Alvarion base stations with a top-of-the market, best cost/performance processing solution, and the benefits of Freescale's advanced technology will be passed on to our customers." 

"WiMAX technology provides a compelling platform for fixed systems and seamless mobility in the broadband wireless access market, and we applaud Alvarion's innovation and leadership in this emerging market," said David Perkins, senior vice president and general manager of Freescale's Networking and Computing Systems Group. "BWA equipment makers like Alvarion require high-performance communications processors for their WiMAX system designs, and Freescale has a strong leadership position with our PowerQUICC line."

WiMAX stands for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, a technology based on the IEEE 802.16 air interface standard and the ETSI HiperMAN wireless metropolitan area network (MAN) standard. WiMAX technology has the capacity to deliver sufficient bandwidth for seamless mobility and triple-play services, including high-speed data, toll-quality voice and multimedia content.

Currently, WiMAX provides last-mile broadband access and backhaul for carrier infrastructure, enterprises and Wi-Fi hotspots and will support personal broadband connectivity in the future. WiMAX is designed to provide high-capacity symmetric digital subscriber line (SDSL) access to businesses and the equivalent of cable/ADSL access for home users. WiMAX enables scalable, carrier-class solutions to support thousands of users with a single base station, while providing differentiated service levels.

Based in Tel Aviv, Alvarion is a global provider of point-to-multipoint BWA solutions to telecom carriers, service providers and enterprises worldwide. Alvarion's BWA solutions enable building-to-building, last-mile, wireless LAN and cellular connectivity for the growing residential and small-office/home-office (SOHO) market, the small and medium enterprise (SME) market and the multi-tenant unit/multi-dwelling unit (MTU/MDU) market.

With more than two million units deployed in 130 countries, Alvarion is the worldwide leader in wireless broadband. The company provides systems to carriers, ISPs and private network operators, as well as full GSM and CDMA specialized network solutions and cost-efficient cellular mobile network extensions. More than 100 carriers have installed Alvarion's WiMAX-ready platform since its launch in 2004. Alvarion is currently developing mobile WiMAX solutions targeting the emerging IEEE 802.16e standard to provide personal broadband services.

About Freescale Semiconductor
Freescale Semiconductor, Inc. (NYSE:FSL, FSL.B) is a global leader in the design and manufacture of embedded semiconductors for the automotive, consumer, industrial, networking and wireless markets. Freescale became a publicly traded company in July 2004 after more than 50 years as part of Motorola, Inc. The company is based in Austin, Texas, and has design, research and development, manufacturing or sales operations in more than 30 countries. Freescale, a member of the S&P 500®, is one of the world's largest semiconductor companies, with 2004 sales of $5.7 billion (USD).

FreescaleTM and the Freescale logo are trademarks of Freescale Semiconductor, Inc. All other product or service names are the property of their respective owners. The "PowerPC" name is a trademark of IBM Corp. and used under license. © Freescale Semiconductor, Inc. 2005.


Genesis Telecom & Intel Agree to Launch WiMAX in Venezuela

Genesis Telecom, a wireless broadband service provider of the América Móvil group announces the deployment of WiMAX-compatible broadband services beginning July 2005.
About Genesis Telecom

Genesis has completed the tests with Alvarion's* BreezeMAXTM 3500, a third-generation OFDM platform with advanced NLOS functionality (non-line-of-sight), designed for broadband operators for voice and data services over IP. Moreover, BreezeMAXTM 3500 allows carriers to migrate their networks to a standard solutions industry with the added benefit of vendor interoperability. Its design supports high quality of service (QoS) and broadband speeds that enable carriers to offer both data and high-quality voice services to thousands of subscribers within a single cell.

Victoria Zerolo, President of Genesis Telecom, indicated that part of Genesis's vision has always been "to be the best, not necessarily the biggest". For five years, and through LMDS technology, the company has provided corporate services to a market that requires more and more bandwidth due to the amounts of data that it handles. However, for WLL services (in the B band in almost every region and in the C band in region 3), they will now be able to provide services to the residential market and small businesses. The novelty of WLL services lies in the transmission of voice, video and data at reasonable costs. "Following its restructuring process in 2002, Genesis business strategy is aimed at obtaining a moderate but constant growth, especially in the field of WLL, in which the technology has remained virtually static throughout this time. We continued the tests until we selected the vendor that satisfies our quality requirements, and with savings that are passed on to the final user, using the best technological equipment, all offered by a trained work team with a solid commitment to quality and customer service."

Genesis Telecom continues its advance while ensuring high quality service in each one of the cities where it will operate. "We know that excellence depends on the decisions we make today; that is the reason why the beginning has been so difficult. We expect to begin providing services at the end of the year, and will meet the time schedule agreed upon with CONATEL at the time."

In the next few years, Genesis Telecom will use its technological infrastructure to develop new versions and services related to WiMAX, and is already taking major steps to become a central player in the WiMAX forum. With these activities, Genesis reaffirms its commitment to the country and its backing of the plans of the Venezuelan state, led by CONATEL, to offer all Venezuelans the possibility to access the information society.

For more information, please contact Genesis Telecom C.A. at (212)5094111 or at 0-800genesis (4363747). You can also write to us at

About the Agreement with Intel

As part of this initiative, Pedro Cerecer, Intel's Business Development Manager for Telecommunications, Latin America, visited Caracas to sign a cooperation agreement with Genesis to technically and commercially support the development of WiMAX-based services.

Pedro Cerecer stated that the implementation of WiMAX base stations will enable rapid adoption of broadband connections for homes and businesses, reducing the existing digital gap. This is possible due to the fact that WiMAX antennas enable high-speed wireless connections (up to a maximum of 75 Mbps), covering a radius up to 50 km without losing connectivity at any time, at bandwidths higher than 10 Mbps and without the need for line of sight between the transmitter and the receiver.

The adoption of WiMAX will enable true wireless mobility; in other words, the ability to use a mobile computer or PDA for Internet access, telephony and video with higher capacity and better quality of service than current offers. But its reach is not limited only to the Internet. IP telephony, television and other applications will be available transparently to a vast number of users, who will be able to take advantage of new benefits.

Pedro Cerecer also stated that in mid April, Intel announced the launch of its first WiMAX product, Intel® PRO/Wireless 5116 broadband, which is based on the IEEE 802.16-2004 standard, and which offers equipment manufacturers and operators the possibility to deploy next generation broadband wireless networks around the world.

Furthermore, many service providers worldwide have announced plans for initiating commercial testing of WiMAX technology based on Intel's silicon products already this year. This will offer clients and businesses proof of this emerging high speed, broadband wireless technology. Large equipment manufacturers have also announced WiMAX solutions based on Intel's product, among them Alvarion*, the company with which Genesis Telecom has conducted its tests.

WiMAX - Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access - is a standards-based wireless that offers high speed, last mile broadband connectivity to homes, businesses and mobile wireless networks. Intel's WiMAX silicon provides the benefits necessary for deploying cost-effective high speed wireless modems in homes and businesses. Initial implementations will allow to support broadband Internet access to remote areas that currently do not have DSL or cable service, and will enable wireless connections between buildings several kilometers apart. As the technology is standards based, it is expected that WiMAX will help new and existing broadband users to enjoy an easier, more economic access to the Internet. For additional information about WiMAX, visit the WiMAX ForumTM ( and Intel (

About Intel:

Intel Corporation, is the world's largest chip manufacturer. It also a leading manufacturer of products for personal computers, networks and communications. For more information, visit

Intel is a registered trademark of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries.

*Other names and trademarks may be the property of others.


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