WiMAX … where it is headed?

It is a strange morning to wake up and to read the following two news:
Lack Of telecom infrastructure drives WiMAX adoption in AP; and
WiMAX Will Not Dominate in the Short-Term, Analysts Say.

Arent analysts fun? One say “Yes yes, WiMAX will grow in AP” and the other say “No no, WiMAX wont happened until 2010”. If you are confused, fear not, I will add to the confusion and say “Both are right!” :-)

There are several business case for Mobile WiMAX. Broadly speaking, (1) ADSL/Cable replacement and (2) personal mobile broadband.

When most people think of broadband in Asia Pacific, they generally look at Japan, Korea & Singapore and then forgot that for the rest of the developing countries in Asia Pacific, most if not all are struggling with broadband pentration. Therefore, as an ADSL/Cable replacement or competitor, Mobile WiMAX is a pretty good alternative.

But when you look at the more advance countries where ADSL is cheap and in abundance, there is a trend that users are using internet where-ever they are, on the train, on bus etc. Japan definitely leads the thrend here and in this personal mobile broadband game, the short time is likely to be win by the mobile alternatives like HSPA, Ev-Do etc.

However, most of the mobile operator are still voice centric – most of the 3G operators are on R5 which is still a voice/data hybrid network, leaning towards voice more. Therefore, as personal mobile broadband subscriptions grows, it is not certain the existing mobile technology is going to support a large number of subscribers since it was never planned as such. So while the short term personal mobile broadband looks bad for Mobile WiMAX, the long term is a different story*.

So I guess it depends which market you are after and in which country. This is why I am not so gungho on Mobile WiMAX in countries like Japan, Korea, Singapore but spending most of my time in Malaysia and Indonesia instead.

*My personal take however is that mobile technology is likely going to evolve and embrace OFDMA. It is going to be more WiMAX-like which will compete with the pure Mobile WiMAX we see today.

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