WiMax future in balance, claims report from OECD

While WiMax has been widely touted as a ‘bridging’ technology to help the Middle East catch up with more developed nations, doubts have been raised over its future this month.

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By  Dylan Bowman Published  March 26, 2006

While WiMax has been widely touted as a ‘bridging’ technology to help the Middle East catch up with more developed nations, doubts have been raised over its future this month. In a wide-ranging report, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) — an influential international trade body — has high-lighted spectrum, regulatory, industry and security issues that may hinder the take-up of the next-generation broadband wireless network. The OECD said much of the wireless technology’s success depended on spectrum availability and allocation, a process that is still incomplete worldwide, and that mobility restrictions on certain bands could cause a problem. “The success of WiMax partially will depend on the availability of spectrum in OECD markets,” the report stated. “The success of WiMax could be hindered by mobility restrictions applied to certain spectrum bands,” it added. The report also highlighted that WiMax could raise serious privacy and security concerns by enabling wireless surveilla- nce over long distances without consent, as well as public safety issues. “Other safety concerns include the use of streaming video contact in vehicles that could distract drivers and the safe use of radio transmitting devices near children,” it noted. The report has been seen as a blow to supporters of WiMax, which has been talked of as the next step up from WiFi and third-generation mobile networks. Foremost among these has been Intel, which last year announced a deal with the Communication and Information Commission (CITC) of Saudi Arabia, to make Riyadh one of ten “Digital Cities” that Intel is working with globally to promote wireless usage (See IT Weekly 19-25 November 2005). The stated aim was to make wireless access freely available across the city, for home and business users. As a mark of the deal’s importance Intel announced it during a regional tour by chairman Craig Barrett. “The expansion of information and communication technology is a high priority for the Saudi government,” he said at the time. “This is investing in ICT as the next natural resource,” he added. Abdulrahman Jarrar, Intel META regional manager for government affairs, told IT Weekly last week that he anticipated WiMax complementing current fixed-line services in the Middle East. Regarding spectrum, Jarrar said Intel had submitted several recommendations at this month’s annual Arab Telecom Regulators network meeting, held in Abu Dhabi, to make spectrum accessibility flexible so it could be used in an efficient way and avoid availability problems when Wimax was introduced. On the security and safety concerns Jarrar said: “Obviously whenever you have a wireless technology there are security issues, but I think encryption technology has become very advanced.” He added: “Intel does look into and care about ensuring that our technology is safe.” Last year, analyst firm Frost & Sullivan warned that continuing delays in WiMax certification would lead to “real challenges” in the widespread adoption of the technology.

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