WiMax soon big in Asia?

WiMax soon big in Asia? Another interview with wireless expert Benjamin Joffe, based in China.

Benjamin says: My most challenging journalist Markus Göbel (www.markusgoebel.de) asked me this time to contribute some ideas on WiMax.

Actually, I must admit that I did not know that much and committed some time to learn about it last week. It turns out that WiMax might be not only big, but also quick, especially in China, India (where wireless is easier to deploy than fixed lines), South Korea (where they already developed an add-on tech on WiMax) and Japan (where new entrants in the mobile space are using this technology). Find below the questions, then my answer.

  1. What is so great about Wimax?
  2. Where will this all develope to?
  3. In Germany we see the first implementations of fixed Wimax. Whatis already possible in other parts of the world?
  4. Has Wimax to deal with competition? Some see it as good but alate starter against UMTS and DSL and WiFi.
  5. Who are the main drivers behind Wimax? What is Intel’s strategy?
  6. Do you have market numbers on Wimax?
  7. What about Wimax in China? I heard about a specially fastrollout because they don’t have the other (old) telephone andDSL infrastructure yet.

1. What is so great about Wimax?

As stated by Intel "WiMAX is all about delivering broadband wireless access to the masses". WiMAX offers greater speed, larger coverage than WiFi and also answers its QoS and security issues. In addition, the 802.16 Revision E standard, approved in December 2005 by the IEEE includes mobility, which is not supported by WiFi. Last, carriers are often able to deploy networks much faster and less expensively with broadband wireless than with DSL or T1, especially where the required copper or fiber infrastructure is not available.

2. Where will this all develop to?

Many carriers are considering deploying WiMax as "hot zones" in combination with WiFi ("hot spots") or 3G technologies. In a broader picture, this might lead to "broadband everywhere" offers for mobile phones, computers, PDAs, portable consoles and multimedia players (PMP), but also connecting car navigation systems, machines (vending machines or others), to achieve a fully networked environment. Many new services and business models should emerge as a result, hopefully to make life easier.

3. In Germany we see the first implementations of fixed Wimax. Whatis already possible in other parts of the world?

Fixed WiMax is like a wireless version of DSL or Cable modem broadband connection. It is especially interesting for countries having large areas to cover with broadband and limited existing infrastructures. In the case of developed countries there would be an even stronger interest in the mobile version.

– In Japan, the company Yozan, a new entrant in mobile communications, launched a commercial fixed WiMax network in December 2005 in the Tokyo area with about 1,000 stations, and plan to expand to 8,000 within 6 months.BB Mobile (a Softbank subsidiary and another new entrant in the mobile space) is working on mobile WiMax and plan to solve the handover between W-CDMA, W-LAN.

– In South Korea, Korea Telecom, SK Telecom and Hanaro Telecom plan to introduce commercial WiBro South Korea in mid-2006 (Wireless Broadband, WiBro is South Korea?s version, built on WiMax), the service is to be accessible to laptops, PDAs and mobile phones. On the supplier side, Intel, Samsung and LG are involved.

– Here are some other implementations in Asia (Source: Lehman Brothers research)

Country/Operator/Technology/Status
*Cambodia*
CamShin / Pre-WiMAX Proprietary / Deployed
*China*
China Netcom / Pre-WiMAX Proprietary / Deployed
China Unicom / Pre-WiMAX Proprietary / Deployed
China Telecom / Pre-WiMAX Proprietary / Deployed
*Malaysia*
Maxis / TD-CDMA / Trial
*India*
Bharti / WiMAX / Trial
BSNL / WiMAX / Trial
Reliance Inforcomm / WiMAX / Trial
VSNL / WiMAX / Trial

Note: what is called "Pre-WiMax Proprietary" are implementations using technologies before their certification and consequently slightly different from the standard, but in many cases able to evolve towards it.

4. Has Wimax to deal with competition? Some see it as good but alate starter against UMTS and DSL and WiFi.

Each technology has its problems and advantages and are sometimes complementary. When deploying a broadband infrastructure there is cost, coverage, speed, etc. and WiMax fares much better than DSL, WiFi or UMTS in some situations. WiMax will likely compete with cellular in some areas, but mobile carriers might also turn to it to reduce congestion in their networks.
Qualcomm’s acquisition of mobile broadband vendor Flarion Technologies in August 2005 will offer a competing solution for wireless broadband. Flarion’s Flash-OFDM (fast low-latency access with seamless hand-off) has been trialed by several carriers and could prove a strong challenger.

5. Who are the main drivers behind Wimax? What is Intel’s strategy?

Several manufacturers, notably Intel Corp., Motorola Inc. and Nokia Corp., are working on the technology, Intel being its strongest backer. Intel’s strategy is pretty straightforward: developing chips to address all of the multiple broadband wireless technologies.

6. Do you have market numbers on Wimax?

ABI Research forecasts that roughly 3.7m users, or some 40-45% of the world?s fixed WiMAX users, will be based in Asia by 2009. With less entrenched interests, there should be a rapid market adoption rate (1-2 years) of wireless broadband technologies in Asia relative to other markets (3-5 years.)

I believe ABI Research’s figures completely underestimates South Korea where some predict WiBro will have 10 million subscribers by the time it covers all of Korea’s major cities in 2008 (out of South Korea’s 48 million population)

7. What about Wimax in China? I heard about a specially fastrollout because they don’t have the other (old) telephone andDSL infrastructure yet.

China has a very strong interest in WiMAX for three reasons:

  • China wishes to support the future leading technologies
  • There is a giant potential market for wireless access in China
  • China has wide rural areas, and WiMAX has a strong advantage there over other wired or wireless systems.

Also, many telecom carriers are interested in rolling-out wireless services,and not all will be granted a 3G license. As a result, they are all looking into alternative solutions or ways to combine with 3G.

  • China Telecom, the leading fixed-line provider has a "Pre-WiMAX" network
  • China Mobile and Unicom have teams working on blending WiMAX and 3G
  • China Railcom is planning to use a blended WiMAX and WiFi network using its fixed lines if they cannot get a TD-SCDMA license
  • China Satcom wishes to leverage its extensive backbone and would use Wimax, WiFi for VOIP

China Netcom, China Unicom and China Telecom already have a "Pre-WiMAX" network deployed in some test locations like Dalian, Chengdu and parts of Beijing.

Further, representatives of China?s Mobile Internet Application Protocol Special Group suggested that from 2007 to 2010?as many as 300 cities could deploy WiMAX, with more than 200,000 corporate and residential users taking advantage of the service.

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