The WiMAX Forum claims that “WiMAX service providers around the globe today have networks covering more than 823 million people (or POPs) in approximately 149 countries and are on track to reach one billion POPs by the end of 2011. This estimate is a growth of 215 million POPs since December 2009 and surpasses the forecasted growth during that time period.”
But doesn’t everyone think that mobile WiMAX is dead? It can’t compete with 3G/ 3G+ today, and won’t compete with LTE anywhere in the future? How can that view be reconciled with the strong growth predicted by the WiMAX Forum?
We have a couple of reasons to explain this apparent contradiction:
- Coverage is not the same as number of subscribers, which depends on the take rate. Especially in developed countries like the U.S. and Europe, subscribers will likely not chose mobile WiMAX, even if its available. Reason is simple- scarcity of mobile devices (smart phones, tablets, eReaders, gaming gadgets, etc).
- The growth in WiMAX is coming almost exclusively from the developing countries that have little or no broadband infrastructure. In those countries, fixed WiMAX (even if it uses IEEE 802.16e-2005) is much more cost effective than deploying wireline infrastructure, especially in sparsely populated regions or where take rates will not be very high.
For example, the WiMAX Forum states, “India saw slow WiMAX growth throughout 2010 due to delays in network rollouts. However, over the next year, the WiMAX Forum expects to see strong network growth in India. BSNL (one of the largest Indian network providers) has committed to deploy 20,000 base stations over the next 36 months through the use of regional franchisees. BSNL has established multiple contracted revenue sharing franchisees for urban roll out and service delivery across India. On February 22-23 of 2011, WiMAX Forum and BSNL are jointly hosting the WiMAX Network Deployment Workshop in New Delhi, an interactive event for BSNL’s Franchisees to gain a concrete understanding of the necessary steps involved in deploying a Greenfield WiMAX network.”
We have opined for a very long time that WiMAX success in India would be crucial to the technology’s survival because it is potentially the worlds largest available market (China telcos announced several years ago they would NOT deploy WiMAX). However, we continue to be concerned with India’s creaking bureaucracy and hints of scandals
IBN Live Business reports the 2G scandal may now be spreading to WiMAX. A recent article states, “Former telecom minister A Raja had also tinkered with BSNL’s WiMax deal to provide fixed and mobile Internet access.”
We were not at all impressed with Mr Raja’s talk (reported in the Viodi View) three years ago at the ICC in Milpitas, CA. At that time, we questioned his abilities as India’s Telecom Minister. He was more interested in talking in Tamil about his family’s adjustment in their move from Tamil Nadu to Delhi. And his subscriber forecasts for WiMAX deployments were not impressive. But he’s gone now, so let’s hope India can move aggressively to deploy WiMAX and satisfy the huge pent up demand for broadband wireless access.
For more information on WiMAX deployments, please visit http://www.WiMAXMaps.org.