Top News
Check latest news Read →

WiMAX momentum: taking the next step to connect people across Asia Pacific and the world

The evolution of the Internet – from ADSL to cable to broadband wireless – has guided the ways in which people gain access to, and interact with, content. Just a decade ago, it seemed unlikely people would take their computers with them, using their laptops to consume information and media on the go. Fast forward to today and mobile Internet devices such as netbooks and smartphones continue to surge in popularity and adoption across the world, with increasingly sophisticated features and functionality. These developments in mobile technology usage and advancement, driven in large part by the deployment of fourth-generation wireless networks, are rapidly gaining momentum globally.

Satisfying the demand for wireless internet

Mobile PC sales are rising fast, according to the latest reports from IDC. In Japan alone, netbook sales are predicted to grow by 113 percent. This rise in mobile device usage poses several challenges to the capability of today’s networks to serve mobile data connections.

Consider that a single laptop can generate as much data traffic as 450 basic-feature phones; moreover, a high-end smartphone such as an iPhone or Blackberry device creates as much traffic as 30 basic-feature phones . Watching a YouTube video on a smartphone uses the same amount of network bandwidth as sending 500,000 text messages simultaneously . This raises the question: Are existing mobile networks really up to the task? With the proliferation of mobile and portable digital devices, there is an urgent need for networks to increase their capacity for connecting every device quickly and seamlessly.

There is good news. Wireless broadband networks are gaining popularity with governments across Asia and beyond as a means to satiate the upcoming demand for mobile Internet access. WiMAX is the first and only fourth generation (4G) technology available today and ready to meet this shift towards mobile Internet.

WiMAX offers flexible business opportunities to network providers, meaning faster speeds and lower cost for their customers. It readily delivers two to four times the performance of today’s 3G solutions, with the ability to scale to 10 times its current level of performance via 802.16m, the next version of the standard upon which WiMAX is based . The limitations of third generation technology or 3G – network technology that has evolved from older, more traditional networks built mainly for voice services – are especially evident as mobile data networks become increasingly congested.

These days, mobile devices are used for more than just basic voice or data services. In India, 56 percent of mobile Internet users aged between 20 to 30 years are frequenting multimedia and content-rich social networks. Social network site Friendster contributes to more than 50 percent of all mobile Internet traffic in Indonesia. Consumers in Thailand offer perhaps the most compelling example, with the country forecasted to be the first in the world to have a higher number of mobile internet users than fixed line Internet subscribers .

A unifying technology for mature and emerging markets

The global deployment of WiMAX networks is gaining momentum. Currently, there are more than 500 fixed and mobile WiMAX trials and commercial deployments happening in 147 countries. WiMAX is flexible and cost effective enough to serve a variety of markets, even when infrastructure for fast and reliable fixed broadband cannot be deployed easily, helping to bridge the digital divide.

In Japan, UQ Communications Inc. launched its WiMAX service in July 2009 in the eastern region of Japan including areas of Tokyo, Yokohama, Kawasaki, Nagoya and Osaka. UQ’s WiMAX service has made it possible for users to enjoy webcasts and online videos, listen to streaming music and enjoy a wireless Internet experience that rivals their wired home broadband connection in speed – whilst opening the door to a whole new variety of wireless devices and applications. As a sign of things to come, seven computer manufacturers in the country have already certified multiple Intel-based laptop models with embedded WiMAX chipsets for UQ’s network.

In Malaysia, Packet One Networks became the country’s first WiMAX operator to launch a commercial network and recently celebrated its first anniversary with a milestone of 130,000 new subscribers. Amidst the global financial crisis, Packet One grew its number of new subscribers by 44 percent – from 25,000 new subscribers in the second quarter of 2009, to more than 36,000 in the third quarter.

And on the other side of the world, Russian incumbent Scartel offers their Yota service to support a wide range of access devices meeting the needs of 250,000 WiMAX network subscribers. These include WiMAX compatible laptops, mobile phones, USB modems and dongles. Before the Yota service became available, mobile Internet access in Russia was slow, expensive, and not widely deployed. Perhaps the most potent sign of the power of WiMAX to stimulate the knowledge economy: Scartel reports that the average data consumption of a Yota subscriber is more than twice the average of a wired internet subscriber in Moscow.

Working together: bringing advanced 4G solutions to the mainstream

The technology ecosystem and cost models are already in place for WiMAX success. Currently, there are more than 20 infrastructure vendors and almost 90 companies offering in excess of 350 client device designs. The WiMAX Forum, an industry-led, not-for-profit organisation certifies, approves and promotes the compatibility and interoperability of broadband wireless products based on WiMAX standards, with six designated Certification Labs in Taiwan, China, Korea, Spain and the United States.

At the end of 2009, more than 178 WiMAX Forum Certified products were already commercially available. These span various device categories, as well as different spectrum bands for carriers in different geographies around the world. By 2011, WiMAX Forum estimates that almost 1,000 devices will be WiMAX Forum Certified.

Intel continues to innovate and drive WiMAX-enabled products and development. Since the beginning of this year, more than 100 notebook and netbook models from 11 computer manufacturers have already been certified for operator networks. They include Acer, ASUS, Dell, Fujitsu, Lenovo, MSI, Onkyo, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba. Further supporting global scaling and cost effective device delivery, the recently launched Intel® Centrino® Advanced-N + WiMAX 6250 module offers multi-band WiMAX capabilities and is compatible with 2.3, 2.5 and 3.5 GHz worldwide frequency bands.

Lastly, an integral part of the WiMAX strategy has been to facilitate fair and reasonable intellectual property licensing costs for device manufacturers, which in turn helps keep the overall cost of WiMAX-enabled devices low. Members of the WiMAX industry, including Alvarion, Beceem, Cisco, Clearwire, GCT, Huawei Technologies, Intel, Samsung Electronics and UQ Communications have formed the Open Patent Alliance (OPA). The OPA vision is to provide a simple, predictable and fair intellectual property rights framework to the WiMAX market, especially for new entrants into the ecosystem.

Driving WiMAX development in 2010 and beyond

2010 will see many exciting deployments across Asia-Pacific, including Taiwan and India. VMAX Telecom has just launched its commercial WiMAX service in February in Taipei. This will provide coverage for 70 percent of the city’s population through an initial deployment of 200-250 base stations. The network is set to provide consumer Internet services and consumer mobile data services, but will also offer enterprise services as well.

In India, ‘making rural communities digitally inclusive’ is the mantra at Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL), India’s state-operated telecommunications company, in adopting WiMAX technology as part of its Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas (PURA) program. To help achieve this vision, BSNL plans to execute a phased WiMAX deployment. It has a goal to serve 250,000 rural WiMAX subscribers across 80,000 villages in the first phase its rural project, whilst adding a further 1.1 million rural subscribers in 675,000 villages as part of its phase two rollout.

Through BSNL’s WiMAX service, India’s rural populace will have access to a wide range of services that were previously out of reach, such as long-distance education, telemedicine, e-governance as well as important access to fair pricing information for agricultural produce.

So what can we expect beyond 2010?

WiMAX will be accessible in more countries, reach more people and help bridge the digital divide in more and more emerging markets. In Brazil, Embratel’s WiMAX network is expected to cover 200 cities within the next five years. In Malaysia, Packet One is committed to aiding the nation to realise its aspiration of 50 percent broadband penetration by 2010. Globe Telecoms, operator of the largest WiMAX network in South-East Asia, is focused on making affordable mobile WiMAX accessible for most of Philippines’ 92 million people.

Equipment and device makers are working together now to accelerate the commercialisation of the next release of WiMAX technology, WiMAX 2, based on the IEEE 802.16m standard. Expected to be complete in the second half of 2010, 802.16m builds upon 802.16e by adding new capabilities while maintaining backwards compatibility. It will meet the International Telecommunications Union requirements for 4G or “IMT-Advanced”, delivering higher system capacity – up to 300 Mbps in a single 20 MHz channel – lower latency and increased VoIP capacity. The initiative is focused on driving open protocols and systems for advanced 4G services. 802.16e equipment vendors have already started development of next generation 802.16m products, and the industry expects to see commercial launches of WiMAX Release 2 systems in 2011.

Operators in developed markets aren’t resting on their laurels either. UQ Communications Inc. in Japan is aiming to cover 55 percent of the country’s population by end of March 2010, with a focus on serving the growth in numbers the country has experienced of late with laptop, netbook and mobile internet device (MID) users. Meanwhile, Clearwire in the United States has an aggressive goal of expanding mobile WiMAX coverage with their CLEAR service to 120 million people across 80 US markets by the end of this year. Major population areas across the country may soon have an unprecedented combination of connectivity and mobility not yet seen anywhere else.

We can definitely look forward to an even greater variety of WiMAX-enabled devices in the market, with more vendors joining the WiMAX ecosystem as the WiMAX Forum and Open Patent Appliance expands. Two new WiMAX Forum Designated Certification Labs will also be opened in Malaysia and Brazil later this year.

With WiMAX adoption in laptops, netbooks and MIDs growing, we will start to see even smarter and versatile applications become available: from consumer electronics and games, digital cameras and home entertainment systems – to smart utility meters as well as manufacturing and agricultural appliances. Users will be able to connect, entertain, stay informed and be productive wherever they go.

The potential for WiMAX to transform the ways we live and interact with each other is limitless. Information is the currency in today’s knowledge-driven economy and by the end of 2010, WiMAX networks are on a path to help over 700 million people share ideas, information and creativity around the world .

Leave A Reply