WiMAX comes of age

With WiMAX viewed as the next big thing in the wireless arena, WiMAX MEGNA revealed the various merits and challenges the technology might offer operators across the region.

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By  Administrator Published  April 23, 2008

With WiMAX viewed as the next big thing in the wireless arena, WiMAX MEGNA revealed the various merits and challenges the technology might offer operators across the region.

WiMAX has gained significant attention among the global ICT community in the past year, with many industry insiders touting the technology as an ideal means of transmitting vast amounts of wireless data over large areas.

But while the technology has huge potential, many industry insiders remain doubtful about how commercially successful the technology will be.

WiMAX has the ability to change the business model from a carrier perspective and offer a wider universe of devices and applications to the end customer. -Chris Weasler

The technology came under the spotlight at the recent WiMAX MEGNA event, held in Dubai in March. The conference, fully endorsed by the WiMAX Forum and held over two days on March 10-11 in Dubai, saw over 150 attendees gather to discuss the latest developments in WiMAX.

Amid the ongoing liberalisation of GCC telco markets, the MENA region is increasingly seen as a ripe ground for WiMAX deployment, given the lack of wire-line infrastructure, the often problematic and sparse terrain, and its plug-and-play type offering - which compares favourably to the inefficient provisioning and poor customer support of wireline players.

Another reason why WiMAX is increasingly viewed as the next big thing in the region is household broadband penetration, which is remains low in many key markets.

Operator interest in the MEGNA region is easily gauged; typical WiMAX 3.5 GHz spectrum prices are among the highest in the world, and vastly exceeds prices in Western markets.

But obstacles still remain to translate this potential market into actual demand; many GCC countries still possess a dominant incumbent, and unequal distribution of income prohibits the propagation of broadband services to the mass market.

Then there is the issue of internet access, with content filtering across the region.

WiMAX does, nevertheless, appear to be the end-all solution to many of the communications problems in the region.

CASE STUDY: Sprint Nextel's WiMAX venture

Chris Weasler, vice president, global development, Sprint Nextel, is optimistic that WiMAX will become a major component of the ICT sector. He describes his company's WiMAX service, which is known as ‘XoHM' as "sitting at the intersection at three major trends going on today: wireless, the internet and consumer electronics."

He says that Sprint Nextel's business model for WiMAX calls for revenue potential from several different sources, first as DSL/cable replacement, and also transactional revenue from embedding WiMAX chips in consumer electronic devices. "Intel is making a lot of progress on this front," Weasler says. "Finally, we look at advertising, e-commerce mobile searches with partners like Google.

"At every piece of the value chain, we've got partnerships in place. One of the things we're putting a lot of time into is interoperability testing (IOT) testing. Putting all those pieces together with the right building system, the right customer care model and the right distribution channel is a complicated puzzle."

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