India’s ‘leapfrogging’ mobile development, an opportunity for Israeli companies

Tel Aviv-based Ceragon to upgrade India’s third-largest mobile provider Idea Celluar in multi-million dollar deal.

Taj Mahal (photo credit: Ben G. Frank)
Taj Mahal
(photo credit: Ben G. Frank)
Advanced mobile technology in India is helping spread Internet connectivity, which can spur economic development, creating opportunities for Israeli companies.
“One of the interesting things in India with regards to 4G is the fact that they are not using it necessarily for mobile handsets,” said Yoel Knoll, VP of corporate marketing and IR for Tel Aviv-based company Ceragon.
“It’s used for broadband access with dongles and for pure voice, to increase frequencies. They’re running out of frequencies for almost a billion people,” he said.
On Monday, Ceragon closed a multimillion deal to upgrade parts of Idea Cellular’s network, the third-largest mobile operator in India.
Though the deal’s value was not published, sources close to the transaction estimated it at $7 million.
“The mobile market needs in India are constantly changing, with an ever growing need for higher bandwidth connectivity,” said Anil Tandan, Chief Technology Officer of Idea Cellular. “With the explosive growth in data demand over the past few years, it is critical to have partners that understand the unique challenges of our market and offer flexible solutions that can grow over time.”
India is the world’s second largest mobile market with approximately 900 million mobile connections, according to Anne Bouverot, the director general of the GSMA, an association of mobile operators.
Mobile broadband adoption in India is set to rocket over the next five years, from about 35 million mobile broadband connections to a potential 400 million mobile broadband connections by the end of 2017.
That connectivity may be key to helping the country hit its development goals.
“We have to leapfrog the industrial revolution and go to the 21st-century revolution,” India’s Communications and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal told The Jerusalem Post on a visit to Israel in June.
“We can’t wait for services being provided on the infrastructure. So we need to build the digital infrastructure, the broadband infrastructure to reach people. A lot of the development gap will be filled up by providing information technology,” he said.
Though India is forging ahead with plans to connect a quarter of a million villages to fiber-optics, the 4G solution may prove easier to carry out.
India’s adoption of wireless high-speed Internet in places where land infrastructure is not available recalls the broad adoption of mobile phones in parts of Africa where landlines had never been built. The socalled “leapfrog” technology opened both an enormous market of consumers and a platform for business, communication and even banking.
“We see in many cases the use of the cellular phones replaces the Internet. It is the first encounter many people in the third world have with the Internet,” said Lior Yekoutieli, Nokia’s Developers Experience Manager in Israel.
According to a report by AT Kearney Africa and Asia Pacific are the two regions exhibiting the fastest growth in the mobile market, representing an addition of $240 billion in revenue between 2012 and 2017.
High-speed connections, both through mobile handsets and Internet dongles, also pave the way for an applications market.
“On the level of applications, it really creates a new world of people who haven’t used the Internet before, or had very sporadic internet,” Yekoutieli said.
In addition to games, which Yekoutieli said make up a surprising part of the market in developing countries, many applications are available to help pull people out of poverty.
One of Nokia’s applications helps teachers with lesson plans.
In Indonesia there is an application that helps women start their own businesses, telling them how to make business plans and take out loans.
Orange offered an application to African cashew farmers that helped them determine the right price for selling their crops, ensuring they did not get shortchanged.
“On the level of applications, it really creates a new world of people who haven’t used the Internet before, or had very sporadic internet,” Yekoutieli said.
That could mean good news both for the consumers and the businesses positioned to provide the infrastructure and products.
Israel is one of the top countries India looks to for importing IT technology, Knoll said. “They see us as strategic partners.”
In November a development group called the IsraelDev Network will sponsor Cleanweb, the first Hackathon in Israel focusing on solutions for developing world challenges at Google’s Tel Aviv Campus.