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Issue of July 2004 

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Extended wireless

Wirefree in the long haul

Although leased lines may presently be a more used long haul broadband connectivity option, the use of Wi-Fi and RF links have gained popularity as a primary long distance link. Here’s a look at how these wireless technologies have helped many Indian companies, and how you can benefit from them. by Soutiman Das Gupta

Ask a CIO about the most popular choice for long-distance broadband connectivity, and chances are the reply will be 'leased lines'. But here's an option. What if there is another means to connect over a large distance? It has all the advantages of a leased line, along with a number of new benefits like mobility and flexibility, and it takes less time to deploy.

We're talking about wireless connectivity.

The use of wireless broadband connectivity solutions in enterprises eliminates a number of hassles experienced when using leased lines. The typical hassles associated with leased lines are downtime, management and monitoring issues, and waiting period for deployment.

Most manufacturing companies in India are located in remote areas and smaller towns where reliable telecom and connectivity infrastructure may not be available. In such cases, a wireless solution can provide the desired reliability and security.

On the upside, wireless links provide sufficient bandwidth (even near E1 capacity), can be set up very quickly, have very little downtime, and are easier to manage and monitor. It doesn't need the ground to be dug up, special permits or licenses to lay cabling infrastructure, and expensive cabling replacements /upgrades.

Broadband wireless in Indian enterprises

TVS Motor Company Limited's wireless links have allowed it to connect its mySAP infrastructure to 450 dealers and 200 suppliers nationwide. It turned to wireless links due to the, “poor reliability of wired infrastructure at that point in time. The vehicle manufacturing assembly depends on SAP inputs and outputs. So if a link fails, the manufacturing stops,” explains Venkat Iyer, CIO of the company.

The company connects its manufacturing locations in Mysore and Hosur (200-odd Km distance) with the help of Spice Telecom's POPs using a G.703 interface. And the links between the manufacturing units and the service provider's POPs were made with the use of RF.

The wireless links not only allow the company to share business-critical ERP and CRM information with its dealers and suppliers, but also lets the internal users share manufacturing data, customer information, mail, and manufacturing designs. Plus it allows Internet browsing and video conferencing.

“Around 450 dealers place orders worth nearly Rs. 2,800 crore per year and nearly 200 suppliers get their purchase schedules and electronic Kanban scheduling notifications worth more than Rs. 1,500 crore over the Internet, says Venkat Iyer. Kanban is a software that provides automatic scheduling functions.

The primary link

Exel India Private Limited (EIPL) had to connect six company locations within a five Km radius in Mumbai and installed 2 Mbps leased lines between the offices. The leased lines were backed up by ISDN links.

But the company felt that the solution was not of much help. “It takes a very long time to implement a leased line. And to add to this difficulty, leased lines offer unreliable connectivity and erratic customer service. Our network is so business-critical that even five minutes of downtime will result in delay and loss of business,” said Suresh Subramanium, Assistant General Manager-IT of the company.

EIPL conducted a Line-Of-Sight (LOS) survey and deployed Radio Frequency (RF) links between the six Mumbai offices with 4 Mbps bandwidth. It now uses RF as primary links and leased lines with ISDN as secondary.

Mixed links

Reliance Logistics uses a combination of CDMA and GPS to perform vehicle tracking. It has already deployed CDMA 'black boxes' (transcievers) on around 600 trucks and has integrated them into a Vehicle Tracking System.

“The technology allows us to offer a very useful and unique set of services to our business users and clients,” says Y.M. Jagani, Assistant Vice-President, Reliance Logistics Limited.

Users can log into a portal, key in the vehicle license numbers and receive updated information of the current location of the consignment. Customers of Reliance's CDMA phone services can receive tracking information on their handsets via SMS.

AFL Private Limited has deployed a mix of wireless links (a mix of point-to-point and point-to-multi-point links) for intra-city connectivity and Internet access. It uses RF technology, which works in the 2.4 Ghz frequency spectrum and provides bandwidth streams of 4.5 Kbps for intra-city connectivity. It also uses a wireless link of 64 Kbps for Internet access in its Mumbai office.

The State Bank of India uses CDMA-based technology to connect its ATMs in a number of nationwide locations. In Kerala the bank even has an ATM on a passenger ferryboat to benefit tourists who visit hotels, resorts and places of worship along the waterfronts.

“The use of a VSAT link in this case would require the antenna to be re-positioned every time the boat moved. And the VSAT communication equipment is also a bit bulky to be used on a moving ferry,” says Sunil Korah, AGM, ATM Projects, SBI, Local Head Office, Trivandrum.

HDFC Bank has linked three ATMs in a test phase with the help of CDMA-based technology. Two of them are in Mumbai and one is in Rajkot. The bank uses the services of Reliance Infocomm Ltd. The links offer 9.6 Kbps bandwidth, which is more than enough for typical ATM transactions.

C.N. Ram, Head - Information Technology, of HDFC Bank says,

“I choose CDMA over VSAT because, the capex in case of CDMA is much lower. The solution also provides ease of use and is convenient to deploy.”

“Security issues are addressed with the use of a unique user ID and password for each CDMA connection. We also use 128-bit encryption on the backhaul,” he adds.

Cost linked with management and monitoring

The cost effectiveness of wireless technology is not only a stand-off between prices of cable versus that of wireless equipment. It also is a stand-off between other aspects like management, monitoring, ease of use, and upgradation cost.

SBI in Kerala uses VSAT as well as CDMA technology to link its ATMs. Korah says, “The cost of using VSAT is still lesser than that of CDMA. But in some locations it's difficult to set up the bulky VSAT equipment on the premises and align it correctly.” And in certain leased or rented premises it may not be permissible to deploy large pieces of equipment. In such a case, the use of CDMA is preferable.

The cost of a wireless link over a short distance is generally high. But in a long haul, a wireless link works out cheaper. And this is especially true in case the wired infrastructure uses optic fiber cable.

“Costs are comparable to that of a wired infrastructure, but the reliability of the wireless infrastructure is almost 99.9 percent compared to 90-92 percent, in case of a wired infrastructure,” states Venkatesh Aiyer of TVS Motor Company Limited. The company also uses MRTG and What's up Gold to monitor the wireless links.

Prakash Chaukar, General Manager of BSES Infrastructure Ltd feels that in case of distances over 500 meters the use of a wireless link is more cost-effective.

Cost justification

“Wireless is easy to upgrade, whereas upgrading a leased line involves an additional complication. You have to support the cost of the modem when upgrading from a 64 Kbps leased line to a 2 Mbps line. Basically, the cost difference between the two links justifies the investment. We did not have to reconfigure any of our existing links to implement wireless,” said Suresh Subramanium of EIPL.

Arindam Bose, Head IT at LG Electronics India Limited claims that he saves a lot of money and technical resources since the company deployed a wireless infrastructure. The savings were made in the areas of cable management and maintenance.

Sumul Dairy in Gujarat, which is a part of the Surat District Cooperative Milk Producers' Union Limited, uses wireless solutions extensively to transmit data and voice (Voice over WLAN). Its EDP Manager, Satyen Naik says, “The cost of using the wireless infrastructure is absolutely justified. Since, there was no connectivity between our head office and remote offices, our business data was not available in time at head office leading to business loss. The use of Voice over WLAN across all the offices saves us time and money.”

He adds, “The cost for all business data communication, information transfer, and video conferencing between the head office and remote offices is only reduced to the cost of running the wireless equipment. This is very nominal compared to the cost of using the traditional infrastructure available otherwise.”

Outsource wireless

An interesting stand-off between the benefits of a wireless infrastructure and that of a wired infrastructure in the long haul is that, in order to use a wired setup over a large distance, a company in most cases has to use a leased line from a solution provider. The alternative is to deploy costly optic fiber, especially if the emphasis is on reliability, scalability, and integrity of data.

But in many cases of long-distance wireless broadband, a company can set up its own infrastructure (wireless bridges, antenna, access points) with a one-time capital expenditure.

However the benefits of outsourcing wireless connectivity are no different from the benefits from outsourcing any IT-related infrastructure. The hassles of management, monitoring, staffing, upgrades, servicing, and support can be taken over by an outsourcing partner. And the partner will charge according to the bandwidth that has been provided.

For instance, TVS Motor Company Limited connected its two manufacturing locations more than 200 Km away with the help of a wireless solution provider at the cost of Rs 10 Lakh.

It is ultimately the decision of the CIO, who should study the organization's needs and resources in detail before making the decision.

The wireless future

Most companies that use wireless technologies want to use it more extensively in future. The business benefits provided by the mobility and flexibility are its biggest attractions. LG Electronics India Limited for instance will set up another manufacturing plant in Pune and will wireless enable it as well.

Although the downside of wireless broadband is that it still needs Line-Of-Sight (LOS), and is yet to become affordable for SMEs and smaller companies. Prakash Chaukar of BSES Infrastructure Ltd comments, “Wi-Fi has really helped more in the realm of communication between buildings, indoors, within rooms, and in halls. But in the outdoors, wireless technology shall succeed in a big way, provided LOS and cost issues are addressed. One needs nomadic wireless, and not be dependent on LOS.”

But that doesn't stop Satyen Naik of Sumul Dairy from believing in the technology. “My company has benefited from the use of wireless technology. We do believe that wireless technology is the future,” he says.

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at

Wi-Max: The upcoming star of wireless connectivity
Will Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (Wi-Max), the upcoming star of wireless connectivity banish Wi-Fi or is it set to banish the use of leased lines for long distance connectivity?

To see what happens, let's look at what the technology will do. Wi-Max refers to any broadband wireless access network based on the new IEEE 802.16 standard. It allows connectivity between any Point-to-Multipoint (PMP) architecture that operates between 2 GHz and 66 GHz.

Wi-Max can transmit network signals even beyond 30 miles of linear service area, which is much greater than Wi-Fi's coverage of several thousand square feet. It provides shared data rates of up to 70 Mbps, which is also greater than Wi-Fi's theoretical high of 54M bit/sec (for 802.11g).

So will Wi-Max substitute Wi-Fi? No, it won't because Wi-Max uses fixed network infrastructure and requires relatively high-gain antennas (about the size of a small laptop). As a result, Wi-Max is a non-mobile high-speed wireless network that connects one fixed node to several other fixed nodes, like a radio tower communicating with several antennae installed on top of buildings. This means Wi-Max is ideally suited to replace the costly installation/service of short-distance dedicated enterprise T-1 lines.

Thus, Wi-Max will integrate with your existing WLAN by wirelessly connecting several buildings within an enterprise campus WAN. The Wi-Max network will connect with your firewall/router, LAN, and WLAN just like a T-1 or DSL line does. Other Wi-Max applications include delivering Ethernet access to Wi-Fi hot-spots and last mile broadband access for home cable or DSL service.

Wi-Max could make high-speed Internet access much more widespread by delivering wireless service to regions currently lacking wired infrastructure, especially rural areas. It's possible that Wi-Max could threaten 3G or other wide-area cellular technologies by speeding up the dissemination of cheap Wi-Fi hot-spot service on ubiquitous citywide levels.

Eventually, these two technologies will grow into inseparable components of the truly wireless network. Wi-Max will deliver wireless Ethernet across large areas connecting smaller WLAN systems, while Wi-Fi will provide wireless access to small mobile devices within these WLAN networks

In India, Intel has helped set up a Wi-Max test network for a large telecom based in Mumbai. The test is expected to be over in the next two months, after which the companies will talk about it. It is expected that the test results will be positive and more installation in India will follow.


Wireless broadband solution providers
Name of solution provider

Convergent Communications
(India) Pvt. Ltd.,

Contact details

Convergent Communications (India) Pvt. Ltd.
108, Gavipuram, Guttahalli,
Off Bull Temple Road,
Bangalore - 560 019.
Tel: 080 - 26612973-76
Fax: 080 - 26612977 Website:

Sify Limited Sify Limited
II Floor, Tidel Park,No.4,
Canal Bank Road,Taramani
Chennai - 600 113,
Tel: 044 - 2254 0770-77
Fax: 044 - 2254 0771
E-mail: Website:
Bharti Infotel Limited(Broadband and Data Group)

Bharti Infotel Limited
(Broadband and Data Group)
234, Okhla Industrial Estate,
Phase-III, New Delhi -110020.
Tel: 011 - 51709031
Fax: 011 - 51709033

Reliance Infocomm Ltd. Reliance Infocomm Ltd.
Dhirubhai Ambani Knowledge City
Navi Mumbai 400709,
Tel: 022 - 30373333
Fax: 022 - 2762 4213
Email: Website:

4th Floor, Chinatamani Plaza,
Off Andheri Kurla Road Andheri East,
Mumbai 400099.
Tel: 022 - 28261723/28254345/ 28369887
Fax: 022 - 8369886

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