WiMAX deployments continue despite questions about long term survival


By Richa Chakravarty

Despite the hype surrounding TDD-LTE (long term evolution-time division duplex), not much of an ecosystem has yet evolved, and not much is predicted to happen in the near future. Whereas Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMax) deployments continue to move forward—they touched 7.2 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2010.

India today needs broadband to be delivered at low cost. WiMAX seems to have the potential to serve this as it has a globally harmonised spectrum of 2.3 GHz and 2.5 GHz, and supports global roaming. It offers the best ROIs and scalability, while conforming to the standards of ITU and TRAI. Finally, it has a great migration path with increased network capacity and high spectral efficiency. “If an operator wants to monetise and roll out this spectrum for wireless broadband services, there aren’t any competing technologies which can meet their needs. However, to meet the needs of 10 million subscribers, devices should be available. We have a clear 3 year advantage that no other technologies can meet and serve this need,’’ explains CS Rao, chairman, WiMAX Forum, India.

WiMax vs. other technologies


User benefits: Mobile services witnessed a growth of 10 million subscribers in 2003 to 600 million today. The broadband growth curve is identical to this. India is a nation thirsty for broadband. And to serve this, WiMAX 2.0 will allow the user to have multi carrier benefits, enabling a seamless technology experience. It provides download speeds of 170 Mbps instead of 20 Mbps, which means you can view 30 channels simultaneously on your cellphone or other mobile devices and upload at speeds of 40 Mbps instead of 16 Mbps. But the concerns are whether WiMAX 809.16m enabled devices will support WiMAX 2.0. That is something we need to wait and watch.

Operator benefits: From the Indian perspective, it is actually the cost of delivery that counts. An economy needs a matured technology to be available at affordable price. WiMAX is fully standardised, with a broad ecosystem, and because of its open testing and IPR policies, it saves both vendor and operator costs.

“It’s not just the end device and base stations but an entire ecosystem that is required to build up and deliver such networks. It’s not about bits and bytes but a real broadband experience which should be omnipresent. With limited spectrum availability, we will have to wait and watch, because 3G is something we have been hearing a lot about since over a decade but have not seen the real numbers yet; as for WiMAX, the trends are more than encouraging,’’ says S Gopalakrishnan, head, India operations, Alvarion.

The official launch of WiMAX 2.0 will be in the later half of 2011. Operators, however, feel that TDD-LTE is premature and is not viable for the mass market. So the winners at the spectrum auction will have to wait for 2-3 years before deploying TDD-LTE. Thus, with huge investments sunk in, they have a clear choice of WiMAX. Moreover, these operators will have a subscriber base of 20 million to serve.

However, every 6 months of broadband deployment delay will cost the Indian economy US$ 1 billion in revenue. “This is like a fork which enables the operators to have the freedom of choice. They are not blind to the opportunities or shortcomings of either option. We should try and harness the most from both the technologies rather than position them on a path leading to a headon collision,’’ says Tarvinder Singh, director, marketing & product management, home & networks mobility, Motorola, India.

With LTE gaining momentum and WiMAX showing encouraging results, it is not an `either/or’ battle. We will have to reconcile both the technologies and allow each their own place under the sun.



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