MUMBAI, INDIA: Will telecom operators meet the DoT's deadline of May 31? Manlio Allegra, Polaris Wireless's Co- Founder, President & CEO, says he isn't very sure.
CIOL: With the government's mandate coming into effect from May 31, 2012, how long will it take for the Indian market to reach a maturity level for location-based services?
Manlio: Because the mandate ask for carriers to deploy accurate location technology by May 31, which is days from now, I don't think anybody would be able to meet that deadline. But I can tell you with a high degree of confidence that before the year ends, most large operators will have accurate location technology in most part of their networks here in India. Obviously, that has to happen first as they will need to deploy the technology and then the location-based services. So, by 2013 or 2015, there would be a major commercial push for location-based services here.
CIOL: What kind of challenges you see in the launch of location based technology in India?
Manlio: They (operators) cannot launch all these technologies at the same point of time, so there's going to be a roll out plan and that will take a few months. But the thing is, say within next 6-12 months, if the top operators launch then you have a lot of enterprises and services that will be accessed by hundreds of millions of end-users. The truth is that technologies are there, well-matured enough to be deployed in very complex networks like the ones in India. So I think with the willingness of the operators to launch technology first, services later we can make it happen and obviously, we are here as a technology product provider to help them. And we have important partnerships in India like the Tech Mahindra that can help us deploy the product fast as they have large operations in the market, know the networks very well and so they would easily deploy our products.
CIOL: What is the market opportunity for location-based solutions in India?
Manlio: The market right now is very limited. Essentially, because of the low accuracy based location solutions that have been already deployed here and I think Bharti has deployed a Cell Site ID solution but it hasn't got much traction. For any kind of location-based services, be consumer services like Friend Finder or Family Finder or even for enterprise services like Asset Tracking, Field Support Management and others, you need be highly accurate. So market is just beginning in India. But if you look at development in Indian IT space in the past 10 years, after the powerful location technology was deployed here compared to US, I think India will have a multi-billion dollar market because accuracy does bring logistics sale in the enterprises and lot of consumer applications than can become quite popular here. So I think it's going to be in billions depending on what the operators launch and services in 2012 and hopefully in next 2-3 years it will be a major growth market.
CIOL: Where do you see the large consumption of location services to come from?
Manlio: Consumers always take time to adopt to new services or products. However, services like Asset Tracking and Field Force Management are for enterprises - which will become positive after 6 months. And these applications are launched all over the world, so they are proven and I think the enterprises want to show that they can make money from the services and so there will be a faster adoption.
CIOL: How much Tech-Mahindra partnership will help Polaris Wireless to tap Indian market?
Manlio: Hugely it will help us because they have been here for a number of years, they have been embedded into most of networks and so they know the networks very well. So with their knowledge of networks and now with the knowledge of technology and products - it will be a perfect combination. And so it will be a frivolous deployment - they will tell in advance what the issues are because each network is different obviously and have extensive operations.
This apart, we also have worldwide relationship with Alcatel-Lucent, which is another major OEM vendor and Alcatel-Lucent has been here in India for many years. And we are open to having partnerships with other players in the market. However, we want to start with these two as both companies know us very well -- Tech Mahindra, for instance is helping our company deploy products in Middle East and Africa markets while with Alcatel-Lucent, we have very strong relationship in the US. So these are the two horses, with which we are going with in India but we can partner other horses as well.
CIOL: Are you also looking to work or partner with state-run telcos?
Manlio: They (state run telcos) will have to comply with the mandate. Whether it is private or state run networks, it doesn't make any difference and obviously, we are talking to them and private firms for deploying the technology and everyone will have to comply to the mandate as public safety and national safety are hot topics here in India.
CIOL: Can you share about company's global business?
Manlio: By now we are about 70:30, where 30 percent is from the US and 70 percent outside the US. This is the break down for this year. However, we think that we are going to win some contracts in 2012 in the US and by 2015, probably we would have 50:50 with 50 percent in US and 50 percent overseas. In US we had the E911 mandate, which is for the past 10 years and now the rules are changed and became more stringent so we anticipate quite a few more deployments there and in overseas the issues of security, so we see both markets in the US and overseas going strong for us.Our overseas markets includes Middle East, Africa and Asia, where most of the deployments are security related. However, I cannot disclose the name of countries due to national security reasons and terrorist threats.
CIOL: How much business presence do you have in India?
Manlio: We have more than 50 percent of company's employees residing in India. We have the Bangalore center, which has been around since 2004 and last year we opened another center in Nagpur. So out of total strength of 150 people globally, 50 percent are in India and these are mostly developers. With the presence of Tech Mahindra here, obviously we expect to double or triple our strength over the next 2-3 years depending on the market growth in India.