Is there a business case for WiMAX?


WIMAX promises Mobile Broadband at much lower cost for operators than current 3G technologies, thanks to better spectrum efficiency and an architecture conceived for IP. For the user, WiMAX will have a similar behaviour as Wifi -plus the advantage of ubiquitous coverage and mobility- i.e.:

High bandwidth Internet Access
Ease of configuration
– WiMAX support integrated in laptops (Intel is a strong supported of WiMAX)

Alternative operators with WiMAX licenses are preparing to compete with incumbent 3G mobile networks. Malaysia and Taiwan are two countries where WiMAX activity is frantic. Taiwanese Government interest in having a solid national industry for PCs, CPEs and handsets, are strongly backing new-entrants to WiMAX, such as Tatung or Global Mobile. The lack of quality broadband in Malaysia makes Wimax a compelling alternative.

But WiMAX operators success will depend on how they position in the market:

Pure Broadband Service Provider. Will they compete with Fixed broadband players, or complement them? Is the end-user likely to subscribe to both a fixed access provider and a Wireless one? Will a flat-fee for a pipe service justify the investment, or should they add applications on top, as IPTV, Music, etc?

NextGen Mobile Operators. Can WiMAX sustain an offer similar to that of 3G operators, including Voice, Messaging, and other VAS (Value-Added Services), only now purely based on IP (VoIP, SMS, etc) . Will the end-users accept to have a WiMAX handset, replacing their current mobile phone? Will they rely on VoIP as a replacement of the GSM/3G phone?

Recent news of Sprint stopping their huge bet on WiMAX (it was foreseen a 5 Billion USD investment), is a set-back as this was probably the largest deployment in the World, but WiMAX industry support remains healthy.

WiMAX is backed by almost all industry vendors: Alcatel-Lucent, Motorola, Nortel, Cisco, Intel, with the exception of Ericsson that keeps focus on improving 3G data capabilities with HSDPA and 3G LTE, to defend their current UMTS market share.

Strong user demand for Mobile Broadband exists. Will WiMAX operators find the way to satisfy this demand.. and that of their shareholders?

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