Consumers could soon get mobile services using a technology other than CDMA or GSM.The Department of Telecommunications has changed its earlier decision and has now proposed to allow operators using wireless broadband technologies such as WiMax to offer both data and voice services. While the earlier announced guidelines had specified that spectrum for broadband wireless can be used only for data services, the Telecom Commission in its meeting on August 21 has taken a decision to remove the restriction. The move follows representations from the WiMax forum and industry associations including the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI). Levelling the field In a bid to level the playing field with incumbent mobile operators, the Telecom Commission has also proposed to increase the base price for WiMax spectrum auction. While the guidelines announced earlier had specified the base price to be 25 per cent of the reserve price for third generation (3G) mobile services, the Commission has decided that the fee should be at least 50 per cent. This means that operators interested to bid for WiMax spectrum will have to offer a minimum of Rs 1,010 crore for a pan-Indian licence compared to Rs 2,020 crore for 3G players. Existing GSM players are expected to oppose the disparity in the reserve price. “The WiMax lobby had argued that reserve price should be lower to enable them to make broadband services affordable. If they are allowed to offer voice services also they should be treated at par with existing mobile operators bidding for 3G spectrum,” said a GSM industry representative. However, supporters of WiMax said that the scope of technology should not be limited through regulation. “There should not be any comparison between 3G and WiMax. Government policies should be governed by what benefits consumers, rather than what a segment of the industry, want,” said officials at WiMax Forum.Teething trouble For the consumers, though WiMax can provide similar services as 3G, it still has to establish itself as global standard. Only a few operators globally have deployed WiMax giving higher economies of scale to 3G technologies. Availability of low cost WiMax-enabled handsets and roaming-related issues are still being worked out by global technology companies such as Intel, Motorola and Nortel .These issues are expected to be settled in less than a year. In India, Tata Communications, Reliance Communications and public sector BSNL could be among the first movers with WiMax.