WiMAX could be a hit in rural markets

10 Jun 2004

Ireland and Australia – markets with high GDP but low broadband penetration – have been cited as the markets with the most to gain for fixed and mobile network operators that deploy new wireless broadband standards like WiMAX and MobileFi to augment the rollout of DSL and 3G services, a new global study has found.

The joint global study by Bear, Stearns & Co International and The Management Consulting Group (TMNG), a provider of consulting services to the global communication industry, said that mobile service presents the greatest opportunity for WiMAX (802.16) and MobileFI (802.20) but will take longer to develop and will require licensed spectrum due to quality of service requirements.

TMNG views that 802.16 and 802.20 will need to prove themselves primarily as carrier offerings rather than as IT offerings. Currently, IT vendors rather than traditional telecom or wireless carriers are driving WiMax and MobileFi standards. The development of the single WiFi 802.11 standard was a critical factor that led to the mainstream adoption of WiFi. Carriers have the opportunity to drive the standardisation of 802.16 and 802.20 and create services and applications to foster market acceptance of these technologies.

“WiMAX, as an alternative technology, will impact deployment strategies for 3G, DSL, cable modems as well as traditional backhaul solutions,” said Rich Nespola, CEO of TMNG. “Carriers must adjust strategies now and act quickly to influence the final standard. Technology providers must partner with licensed-spectrum carriers and plan a careful, measured introduction of products and services with maximum functionality.”

TMNG also sees significant opportunity for international markets from a technical, regulatory and economic standpoint. Where penetration of DSL and cable modem broadband service is poor or uneven, as is true in a large number of foreign markets, WiMAX holds strong potential.

WiMAX, which is capable of sending data over a range of 30 miles with data transfer speeds of up to 70Mbps, is currently among the new technologies being evaluated by the Forward Looking Programme of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). According to the chief technology officer of BT Group, Matt Bross, the company is already trialing WiMAX in Northern Ireland and will have commenced trials in the Republic of Ireland later this year.

“Countries like Australia and Ireland, with high per capita GDP and low per capita broadband penetration, represent significant market opportunities,” said John Krzywicki, president, TMNG Strategy.

By John Kennedy