Future of data tech

WiMAX is regularly touted as the next big thing for data communications. But how are companies using WiMAX, and how will it stand up against other data technologies such as HSPA?

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By  Administrator Published  October 14, 2008

WiMAX is regularly touted as the next big thing for data communications. But how are companies using WiMAX, and how will it stand up against other data technologies such as HSPA? CommsMEA spoke to Noel Kirkaldy, director of wireless broadband for Motorola Home & Networks Mobility in Middle East, to find out more.

How is demand for data growing, and how does WiMAX fit into growth trends?

Data is not only important but has become a necessity. If you look at some of the analysis about what people can do without, they are saying they can do without their car but not without their PDA mobile phone. Voice is a necessity and data is also becoming a necessity.

You find that countries that have not invested in cable or fixed-line have very low broadband penetration and are ideally suited for WiMAX..

We see countries that don't yet have that capability but have a lot of potential like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, South Africa and Pakistan. These countries can benefit hugely from bringing internet coverage, not only from a commercial point of view but from a social point of view of health, and education.

Tell me about Motorola's WiMAX business. Which operators and partners are you working with?

The whole WiMAX technology has come up slightly differently from standard communications that we've seen from the cellular side.

As far as Motorola is concerned we have mainly deployed WiMAX for operators that are focused around wireless broadband operations, with the option of adding in voice. So we have contracts with operators such as Atheeb Telecom in Saudi Arabia, Wateen Telecom in Pakistan, Mena Telecom in Bahrain.

These are effectively new names to the industry - green field companies going into the market focusing around wireless broadband, which is very different to the traditional fixed telecom or cellular companies that have been focusing primarily on voice.

This is one of the main differences and it has been bringing in new entrants. This trend is backed up by many governments that want to open up not only the voice market - which is already in good shape - but also focus on developing broadband from a regulatory point of view. This is really what these companies have come up to do.

Atheeb Telecom was one of three new fixed licences issued in Saudi Arabia last year. We were awarded the contract for the majority of their WiMAX roll out.

But before that there were some developments in Pakistan, where the government was liberalising the market and focusing on getting new operators to start up. One of those organisations was Wateen Telecom and we were awarded the nationwide roll out for their WiMAX network.

Is WiMAX mainly popular in developing markets? Where do you think its future lies?

Middle East and Africa was behind the West in terms of mobile, but when it comes to WiMAX, it is moving ahead. It is interesting to note that Pakistan was the first global contract ever awarded for a nationwide deployment of the type of WiMAX Motorola works with, which is 802.16e, as opposed to 806.16d. Pakistan is a prime example of a country that needed a solution such as WiMAX.

You find that countries that have not invested in cable or fixed line have very low broadband penetration and are ideally suited for WiMAX. Pakistan is representative of some of the challenges we face from a physical point of view in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and other countries.

How do you go about rolling out a WiMAX network?

It's a similar environment to cell towers. From the customers' point of view they just see additional base stations or this equipment installed into existing base stations - which is more often the case. So effectively it looks exactly as analogue networks and existing GSM networks, but from the device point of view users will see a difference.

GSM is very much mobile where WiMAX is more like an individual satellite dish. It is similar to when WiFi first came in and required outdoor or indoor antennas.

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