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Published on March 1st, 2007 | by Babar Bhatti

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Why WiMax?






Pakistan is one of the early adopter of WiMax technology and Wateen has made ambitious announcements for WiMax rollout in 17 cities. Wateen is using the technology to provide fixed wireless broadband data services for residential use, and through its 5,500 kilometre long haul optical fibre, metro optical fibre rings and FTTx, the company will offer total communication solutions (Triple Play) including voice services, video conferencing, broadband internet and TV viewing. Others such as Dancom and Burraq are also implementing WiMax. For an overview of Wimax in Pakistan see my previous posts, especially this. Despite all this buzz around WiMax there are still many who express doubts about it, especially when 3G is out there.

An article in THE ECONOMIST says that for the 60,000 people attending the 3GSM trade show recently in Barcelona, WiMax was everywhere … on huge banners, on the lips of executives, and on products in display cases.. everywhere, that is, except in the real world. The article says that even as mobile operators start to upgrade their networks to the latest enhanced 3G equipment, WiMax boosters say their technology is superior … and now that WiMax networks are starting to pop up around the world, the industry will soon find out if they are right. I think that startups such as Meraki which is developing low-cost wireless mesh technology and routers, can make a big difference in WiMax adoption.

As discussed at ZDNet here, the market for high-speed connectivity has split into two camps: one stands by wireless standards such as WiMax and Wi-Fi, while the other supports mobile technology 3G and HSDPA. Motorola which is one of main Wimax provider thinks that Wimax can replace wired broadband in 20 years. The GSM camp disagrees. The truth is probably somewhere in between: both mobile and wireless (wimax) technology segments are complementary and can co-exist in the market (see illustration above – source: Alcatel / Forrester). In my opinion, it is the local economics and demand which will favor one technology over the other.

As noted in ZDNet, Wi-Fi and WiMax have been largely confined to facilitating high-speed connectivity to laptops and PDAs, while 3G and HSDPA have focused on mobile phones. However, there are now suggestions that 3G can be extended to laptops, particularly as the data speeds offered by these mobile standards catch up to those provided by WiMax.

Mobilink CEO Zouhar Khaliq has been reported to state that Mobilink had trialled WiMAX in the past but said that no trials were currently underway. “Our main aim is to continue to be the dominant cellular and telecoms player in Pakistan, offering services beyond the cellular space,” Khaliq added.

“Over 80 percent of the world’s population has GSM coverage, but I don’t think that’s true for WiMax ,” a GSM Association officer said. “Why then would you want to invest some millions of dollars building up a WiMax network when you have a [GSM] network that already covers 80 percent of the world’s population?”

Mark Whitton, vice president and general manager for WiMAX at Nortel Networks, said, “To label 3G and WiMAX as purely competitive or purely complementary ignores the subtle strengths and weaknesses of the unique wireless technologies involved. 3G was designed to deliver ubiquitous voice in a mobile environment and is building upward from this strong base to also deliver higher-bandwidth services to highly portable devices. It carries with it the burden of backwards compatibility, and the complexity of implementing layers of services on top of each other,” he said, adding, “WiMAX is focused on dramatically dropping the cost per megabit for wireless broadband, while simultaneously delivering a real and significant increase in end-user bandwidth through the magic of OFDM and MIMO. These two business cases overlap at the edges and will inevitably compete with each other to some degree.”

The Yankee Group, a research firm in USA, is forecasting a total of 28 million Mobile WiMAX subscribers by 2011, according to research the agency discussed this week as part of a tele-briefing on the state of the WiMAX industry.

However, Berge Ayvazian, chief strategy officer at The Yankee Group, said various market drivers such as content application usage and the degree to which WiMAX access becomes embedded in a large volume of devices, could allow that subscriber figure to be reached as early as 2010.

“You’ve got a lot of pre-802.16e equipment out there now and for the next year, but the market is really set to grow as the standard gear goes out there into the market,” he said. His comments were part of a briefing titled “Trendsmedia Tele-Briefing: WiMAX & Wireless Broadband: State of the Industry and Market Outlook 2006 to 2011.” The briefing included research from both Yankee and Rethink Research and looked at the global market, as well as specific regional markets.

Their research also suggested that the global Mobile WiMAX equipment market will be worth about $4 billion by 2011, with the North America portion of that closer to $1 billion.

However another prominent US research firm, Forrester Research, has expressed concerns about Wimax proliferation in near term. Their view: WiMAX will indeed have a big global impact on consumers, enterprises, vendors, and telecom operators by making high-speed wireless access cheap and mobile, but not until 2010 or later — because of myriad spectrum, customer premise equipment (CPE) availability, regulatory, cost, and competitive reasons. It is also important to correct the misperceptions about available speeds to end-users – the max theoretical speeds should not be touted without explanations of what users might get in reality.


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Founder and Editor of TelecomPk.net



8 Responses to Why WiMax?

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  3. Pingback: State of Telecom Industry in Pakistan » Overview Of WiMAX in Pakistan

  4. Pingback: Anonymous

  5. Anonymous says:

    In a country like Pakistan where monster like PTCL doesn’t allow you to enjoy true broadband connections, WiMAX is the best option.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Otto,

    You are absolutely right, although that flavor of WiMAX is 802.16d or also known as 802.16d (2004) which is for fixed wireless applications. It is most suitable alternative for DSL/cable service providers for last mile applications where the rate of return on investment for traditional methods of laying copper does not make sense. When it comes to mobility, WiMAX 802.16e comes into play which is supposed to compete with regular mobility wireless technologies such as GSM & CDMA.

    Regards,
    Asim

  7. Anonymous says:

    Asim, WiMAX is not only for mobile phones. I think third world countries are trying to implement WiMAX to replace/skip other means of providing bandwidth such as DSL/cable and maybe T1. WiMAX is supposed to be more affordable to install and provide comparable speeds.

    T1 Line Price Quote

  8. Anonymous says:

    The issue I see here with WiMAX is that there is no globally available spectrum available for WiMAX. Although the current efforts are at 2.5GHz and 3.5GHz but it very companies have that spectrum. The companies that do have the spectrum might not go the route of WiMAX. GSM’s evolution path has HSDPA which will compete with WiMAX. Data speeds reported earlier from WiMAX are not practically possible and hence will be up to par with HSDPA. CDMA has its own evolution path with EVDO Rev C which will also use OFDMA technology and will have speeds closer to being promised by WiMAX.

    The key aspect is applications. While everyone is really working hard on providing high speed data there are no really viable applications for consumers. While Wateen will offer TV service, how many would be willing to pay a premium to watch TV on their mobile. Especially when the biggest market in Pakistan, Karachi, is plagued with lawlessness and anyone can snatch your phone in broad daylight. So will the people sit in their living rooms and watch TV on their mobiles instead of the regular TV?

    Do not get me wrong, WiMAX is here to stay but probably will have its challenges in capturing the market place as the competition will be tough.

    Regards,
    Asim

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