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If LTE Disappoints, What About WiMAX? (Guest Post)

Ed: Below is a guest post by Ofer Karp, President, Wireless Broadband at Alvarion. In it, he addresses some of the issues we raised in our LTE - Late, Tempting, Elusive? article and at the November Telco 2.0 Exec Brainstorm to make the case for WiMAX. We’d be interested in comments from our readers…meanwhile, you can help Telco 2.0 improve our service to you by taking a brief survey.

A recent study by Unwired Insight claims that growth in data traffic will bring about a 3G network capacity crisis from some mobile network operators as early as 2010. As 2G users continue to migrate to 3G services, the available capacity per 3G user will decline rapidly in networks utilising HSPA, to less than 100MB per user per month in some cases.

As the need for data-oriented mobile broadband services continues to escalate, so does the need for advanced wireless networks with increased capabilities. Given the majority of the world’s population still doesn’t have access to broadband, we need multiple technologies - both wired and wireless - to satisfy growing demands.

Commercially available WiMAX™ networks and devices are proven at delivering lightning-fast speeds, allowing people to get more accomplished online in less time. Until recently, the early adopters of WiMAX and other broadband wireless access systems have been operators serving areas not covered by traditional wireline broadband connections. However, the two fundamental technological advantages of WiMAX - superior radio technology and an open IP-based access network infrastructure - are making it the technology of choice for operators looking to build a successful business case as they look to profit from the delivery of mass market broadband applications and services around the globe.

The Market for WiMAX

WiMAX is the first ‘4G’ technology to have commercial networks, services and devices available today. At this stage of rollout, operators are using WiMAX to address two distinct markets: primary broadband and personal mobile broadband services. The primary broadband addresses residential and enterprise broadband in developing world as well as underserved and rural areas in developed economies of the world. Specifically for developed areas, WiMAX offers an alternative to DSL, allowing operators to ultimately enable fixed mobile convergence (FMC) of networks and services.

For personal mobile broadband, WiMAX addresses more densely populated areas, such as metro centers and suburbs, providing the opportunity to mobilize broadband connections by offering high speed internet while on the go. This is possible because WiMAX facilitates always-on broadband connectivity, complete with mobility, handover and roaming services, thereby ensuring that subscribers are always connected and have access to applications and the Internet.

WiMAX is a technology that compliments, not competes with HSPA and LTE. There is no reason for an operator not do take advantage of WiMAX while using or waiting for HSPA and LTE. Operators today can offer a true mobile broadband experience while using another technology for voice. In such an arrangement an operator can meet the data needs of today’s consumer while protecting the integrity and QoS of its voice network - without exorbitant operational expenses.

TCO Optimisation

WiMAX offers operators the opportunity to increase revenues through a proven business case and user experience for mobile broadband services. Given the growing number of devices and network platforms offered today by a mature ecosystem, operators are benefitting from the quick-time-to-market and the attractive economics afforded by interoperability and volumes now prevalent in products that provide anytime, anywhere connectivity.

The WiMAX Business Case

In today’s competitive market, the key to an operator’s success is the ability to have choice in business models that they can pursue, which is limited only by their own strategic decisions. The market is fast moving and dynamic, which means that an operator must be able to adapt its current business models and roll out new services quickly in order to stay ahead of the competition. Today, an operator that can adapt quickly and offer services and applications to consumers who have ever growing demands, while minimizing costs will be able to carve market share. To do so, operators must address a number of real-world challenges, including:

Service Provider Value Proposition

Personal broadband in underserved areas

  • Linkem Spa currently delivers wireless broadband/hotspot/Wi-Fi services to 300 towns nationwide and holds WiMAX licenses covering nearly 80% of Italy’s population in thirteen regions. Last year Linkem turned up its first commercial WiMAX service as part of the first phase of its project to deploy WiMAX across Italy by 2013.
  • Aria offers broadband services to all 21 Italian regions using Alvarion’s 4Motion Mobile WiMAX solution. Given Italy’s 58 million highly-dense population, WiMAX is the most economical and high-performance technology to deliver 4G broadband to businesses and residential subscribers in a wide geographic area.
  • Open Range Communications, a U.S. broadband service provider, was recently approved for a $267 million RUS grant and intends to use WiMAX to bring broadband Internet to underserved populations in the U.S. The deployment will focus on end users, consumers and businesses, in 17 states, more than 546 rural communities, eventually servicing over 6 million people.
  • High capacity services and applications for enterprise

    • Connected Communities, Scotland

      Connected Communities is a next generation broadband wireless network connecting businesses, teleworkers, schools, community centres, airports, post offices, remote learning centres, doctors, hospitals, and citizens across the populated islands of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.
      High-level broadband communications is a prerequisite for future development and underpins their aspirations to grow the economy and breakdown geographical barriers. Their aim is to develop the concept of a Connected Hebrides, a place which combines quality of life offered by rural living with global connectivity, opportunities for employment and inward investment, business creation, skills and learning.

    • True broadband experience in dense urban areas

      • Yota

        Yota offers fixed, nomadic, and fully mobile wireless broadband Internet access. It is particularly proud of the stability of its full mobile access, quoting field tests that demonstrated stable connectivity at speeds up to 120 km/h within the coverage area. Yota’s network provides broadband Internet access speeds of up to 10 Mbps, which makes it possible to offer streaming movies, TV programs, and online music in its mobile services catalogue.

      • Comstar

        United TeleSystems, the largest operator of integrated telecommunications services in Russia and CIS, provides voice, data, Internet, pay-TV and other value added services to more than 400,000 residential and corporate Internet subscribers in Moscow alone and provides services in 69 other cities in fi ve Russian regions, including Armenia and the Ukraine. Fully launched in May, Comstar-UTS’s mobile WiMAX network is providing subscribers with mobile Internet service with data transmission rates of up to 2 Mbps in Moscow.

      • ELRO

        A Danish utility company began offering voice and broadband services in 2008 in Randers, a community of approximately 60,000 residents. Based upon its success, the company expanded it’s network at the 3.5 GHz and 3.6 GHz frequency bands, allowing current and new customers to benefit from faster Internet speeds and high quality voice services.

      Vertical markets: Municipalities, Utilities, Electricity

      • Mobile WiMAX Acceleration Group (M-WAG), a consortium of companies in the United Kingdom, joined together to create an ecosystem for Mobile WiMAX. Alvarion and MLL Telecom deployed a pilot network targeting a variety of applications ranging from public safety to mobile data, VoIP and video streaming.
      • Hafslund, one of the largest listed utility companies in the Nordic area, recently deployed Alvarion’s Mobile WiMAX solution over the 2.5 GHz, providing broadband services to the Ostfold, Norway region.

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First thing to address - this term 4G. 'G's or Generations of technology are aligned to the allocation of frequencies by the ITU-R. 4G will come to pass when IMT-Advanced spectrum is allocated and candidate technologies are selected in 2011, so there is no 4G technology out there today.

So lets put WiMAX in its true category - 3G, along with a whole bunch of others including LTE and HSPA. There are very few WiMAX devices out there right now when compared to HSPA (HSPA gives you a choice of a over 1600 different devices), and the scale of WiMAX deployments, while high in network numbers, is very low in subscriber numbers. At the point when HSPA connections passed 150 million, WiMAX connections were at about 3.5 million. HSPA connections now stand at 180 million, and are currently adding 9 million connections per month, or put another way, each month HSPA adds as many connections as more than twice the total number WiMAX has.

Why is WiMAX struggling to find subscribers? Well first, there are not many truly mobile WiMAX deployments, so to draw comparisons to other technologies, WiMAX is more akin to a fixed line service than to a mobile one. Second, not all WiMAX networks support the same variant of WiMAX, so not all devices work on all networks. And finally, there is no Roaming on WiMAX. If I take my HSPA dongle or handset from one country to another, it still works if HSPA is available, and even if it isn't, I'll fallback to UMTS, EDGE or GPRS. If I tried the same with WiMAX, chances are it won't work, and if there is no WiMAX network, I get nothing anyway.

So rather than asking what to do if LTE disappoints, why not ask 'why take WiMAX when you could have HSPA?'. 180 million connections suggest that question is already answered.

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