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Wireless Utopia

The journey towards a free wireless world.

Disruptive WiMAX

Monday, March 13, 2006

Om Mailk links to the OECD report on WiMAX. With impending WiMAX rollouts by the end of this year, the spotlight is clearly on it. The report focusses on the impact of WiMAX on the current wireless market in the OECD countries rather than the technology itself. The American market is not even mentioned once, but the conclusions apply equally. It attempts to give some perspectives on the debate about 3G and WiMAX. Here are some excerpts.

It starts off with a conclusion.
"WiMAX may prove to be a disruptive technology for the telecommunication sector but careful policy can ensure that the disruption creates the maximum benefit possible in the market."
This statement sums up the undercurrent in the report. The report tries to home in the point that spectrum usage will spell the success of WiMAX eventually and the impact of regulation is on the use of licensed or unlicensed spectrum.
"For example, if a rural wireless provider chooses to offer wireless services in the 5.8 GHz range, a competitor would be allowed to set up identical equipment using the same band and likely cause interference."
This interference could potentially render the service useless. Some operators have thus chosen to deploy WiMAX and 3G in tandem so as they compliment each other. It points out two examples of KTF and T Mobile where both the services are provided which one forming the fallback for the other.

It delves deeper into the debate about its disruptiveness.
"When people talk of WiMAX as a disruptive technology, often they are referring to the impacts WiMAX is likely to have on traditional fixed and mobile telecommunication networks."
For that to happen, WiMAX has to match the services provided by these networks. It does have the capability of outdo the data part, but what about voice? Will users be able to use Skype and Vonage on thier devices? The answer lies in the support of QoS in WiMAX.
"The initial 802.16-2004 standard includes QoS but does not include definitive instructions on how it should be implemented."
HSDPA and DORA already have full QoS support with the core network based upon IMS. The latencies and delays have been carefully engineered so as to enable voice and video streaming. In the long run, the support for QoS or the lack of it may result in WiMAX being relegated to be used only for aysnchornous data traffic. But then a patchy service, which is free, would still be popular over a paid service.

Interconnectivity to PSTN and PLMN domains will also be a key factor.
"ISPs offering WiMAX connections will need the ability to interconnect to Internet exchanges, and likely to the PSTN if they are providing VoIP services."
Advanced IN services would have to be built on top so as to attract users. It will ultimately be its ability to encroach upon markets catered to by traditional mobile networks will determine its disruptiveness.

In the long run it a lot will depend upon the its popularity amongst end users. The cost effectiveness and ubiquitous coverage of WiMAX may prove to be its biggest strength. Once the security and privacy concerns are addressed, the Operators will have no choice but to embrace it once it goes mainsteam. With 3G rollout also in progress, the timing is perfect for introduction of such a technology.

Pervious posts on WiMAX: Mobile Routers Promise of WiMAX

Update 1: TMobile's announcement of the service mentioned in the report.

Update 2: WiMAX and FlashOFDM finds a mention in Technology Review.

Update 3: Aclatel's take on WiMAX.

posted by Rajiv, 4:50 AM


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