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Gulf operators invest in WiMAX

Operator investments demonstrate confidence in WiMAX technology as means to deploy broadband in key growth markets.

Gulf operators invest in WiMAX
Qtel CEO Dr. Nasser Marafih views WiMAX as an important part of the company's growth strategy.

Gulf operators are continuing to throw their weight behind WiMAX, with Qtel planning to launch broadband services using the 4G technology in the Philippines in the coming months, Wateen Telecom investing heavily in its WiMAX operation in Pakistan, and Mobily extending its network in Riyadh.

In a recent interview with CommsMEA, Dr Nasser Marafih, CEO, Qtel, described WiMAX as being an “important pillar” of the company’s strategy, and confirmed that Qtel was planning to launch services in the Philippines in the first few months of 2010 through its dedicated WiMAX unit, Wi-Tribe.

“Wi-Tribe already launched services in Jordan in 2008 and we also launched our operation in Pakistan a couple of months ago, and we are planning to launch services in the Philippines early next year. The reason for this is we believe WiMAX is the right technology to provide fixed broadband at this stage,” he said.

“It is a well proven technology and also cost effective. The licencing fees have been reasonable and also the spectrum to make it possible. We are keen to push that in 2010 and also to expand it even further in other markets.”

Marafih added that he sees a significant opportunity for fixed wireless services in Pakistan and the Philippines, which both have low broadband penetration rates and widely dispersed populations.

One of Wi-Tribe’s rivals in Pakistan, Abu Dhabi Group’s Wateen Telecom, said recently that it had accelerated the rollout of its WiMAX infrastructure with the aim of doubling its customer premises equipment volume from 100,000 to 200,000 by the end of the year.  The company, which is one of five WiMAX players in the country, currently has just over 100,000 subscribers.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian operator Mobily, which is backed by Etisalat, said this week that it had extended its WiMAX coverage to more than 20 additional districts in Riyadh, including Mekal, Al Yamamah, Al Salam, west Uraijaa, and Al Rayyan.

Mobily, which competes with rival WiMAX operator Atheeb Telecom in Saudi Arabia, originally rolled out a WiMAX network in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and Khobar in 2008, after acquiring Bayanat, a local company licenced to offer WiMAX services, in May 2008.

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