In 2006 Wateen-Motorola WiMAX project in Pakistan created a lot of buzz all over the world. Many similar trials and services are being offered around the World. However it is still a big unknown if Wimax will be a success in emerging markets of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and China. Can WiMAX deliver its promise of affordable broadband with wide coverage? Some skeptics think that WiMAX is more of a hype created by industry and not a reality yet. Of course adoption by public will be the proof of its success.

In Pakistan, Wateen’s project is going ahead full speed and it might be available for public in later half of 2007, according to Business Recorder. According to some blogs and discussion forums Wateen may offer WiMAX to 22 cities in the first quarter of 2007.  Malaysian owned Dancom also started offering Wimax in Karachi, starting with the business community. Their prices are still high for consumers.

Let’s take a look at the WiMAX technology and how can it meet broadband needs of today. See illustration below (source Telecom Magazine)  for end-to-end view of WiMAX.

The WiMAX Forum, an industry coalition, defines it as:

WiMAX is a standards-based technology enabling the delivery of last mile wireless broadband access as an alternative to wired broadband like cable and DSL. WiMAX provides fixed , nomadic, portable and, soon, mobile wireless broadband connectivity without the need for direct line-of-sight with a base station. In a typical cell radius deployment of three to ten kilometers, WiMAX Forum Certified™ systems can be expected to deliver capacity of up to 40 Mbps per channel, for fixed and portable access applications.

Point-to-multipoint wireless solutions based on WiMAX could have the potential to address the performance and economic challenges associated with providing cost-effective broadband access in the infamous last mile. The graphic below (source Telecom Magazine) shows how a wide range of end users can be served using which of the IEEE standards e.g. IEEE 802.16e-2005 for data mobility.

In addition to broadband Internet access, applications that are supportable with WiMAX include instant messaging, multiplayer interactive gaming, streaming media, VoIP, video and teleconferencing, and media content downloads.

As explained here, a typical WiMAX operation will be comprised of WiMAX base stations deployed in a cellular fashion to provide ubiquitous coverage over a metropolitan area. WiMAX base stations can be connected to the edge network by means of a wireless point-to-point link or where available, a fiber link.

Major Players

Some of the major names include: Motorola, Intel, ZTE, Samsung, Alcatel, Alvarion, Sprint, Aperto Networks.

From the US mobile phone proivders, Sprint has emerged as a champion of WiMAX. Sprint announced that mobile WiMAX is its 4G wireless technology of choice. It plans to begin building an entire Web-based phone network tuned to WiMAX starting next year. Intel, Motorola, and Samsung have invested heavily in the technology.

Challenges

There are plenty of issues which can bog down WiMAX. Here’s a brief overview.

  • Price obstacle – the equipment costs are still too high
  • Spectrum – in many countires the availability of spectrum for WiMAX is a major issue
  • Standards – issues of of interoperability between OEMs and carriers abound
  • Intellectual Property – As of September 2006, there were more than 1,500 patents distributed among 330 companies on WiMAX technologies
  • One wonders if 2007 is the year when Wimax becomes mainstream? At least Motorola believes so!

    Continue below to read some opinions from the Telecom Press.

    Telephony magazine reports: The WiMAX sector definitely has some cause to be excited, but they aren’t in the clear just yet. The critics may be slightly cowed, but they still have a lot of good points. Sprint aside, WiMAX is still an unproven technology aside from Samsung’s WiBro networks in Korea. And even the ostrich feather in WiMAX’s cap, Sprint, isn’t exactly the proof of the WiMAX business case these conferees would hope. The peculiarities of its spectrum, regulatory deadlines for deployment and the lack of availability of latter generation CDMA technologies all contributed to Sprint’s choice of WiMAX. Other carriers won’t face that pressure. In fact, pressure might go in the opposite direction, forcing them to deploy latter-day UMTS technologies even if they like WiMAX.

    More on Wimax in Pakistan and Aisa in coming months.

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