|Asia-Pacific I 2008
|Mobile WiMAX – broadband for emerging economies
|Senior Vice President of International Operations
Yossi Shabat, Senior Vice President of International Operations for SOMA Networks, a global mobile WiMAX solutions provider, is responsible for all global sales and operations for the Asian and EMEA regions. He has over 20 years’ experience in sales and operations with innovative technology companies, and has worked throughout the Asia-Pacific region since 1991. Prior to joining SOMA Networks, Mr Shabat was the Division Vice President for Asia-Pacific, responsible for all Sales & Operations at Comverse Technology, Inc. He has also held senior level positions at Apple Computers, Orbotech and Applied Materials.
Millions of people need access to basic telephony and data services. However, wireline infrastructure is time-consuming and costly to deploy – and time and money are usually in short supply in emerging economies. Of all the wireless technologies, mobile WiMAX offers the best combination of fixed, voice, data and multimedia services, combined with cost-efficiency, ease and speed of deployment and scalability. Mobile WiMAX minimizes initial infrastructure costs, maximises return on investment, and supports higher subscriber densities than older wireless technologies.
Bridging the digital divide has become an imperative for developing nations eager to join the global economy. Despite the apparent ubiquity of cell phones and laptop computers, millions of people around the world still need access to basic telephony and data services. However, building a new wireline infrastructure to deliver these services simply is not feasible in many developing countries. Traditional wireline infrastructure is extremely time-consuming and costly to deploy – and time and money are usually in short supply in emerging economies. As a result, many governments are now looking to wireless technology to bridge the digital divide. Cellular and WiFi technology, for example, have become popular ways to deliver wireless voice and data services in both developed and developing regions. Deploying these kinds of technologies on a national scale, however, poses economic and technological challenges for local service providers. First, it requires an enormous capital investment before any subscribers are connected and any revenue can be realized, significantly increasing the service provider’s business risk. Second, it requires building separate networks for voice and data services, greatly adding to the service provider’s deployment and operational costs. Third, it requires a much larger and more complex wireless infrastructure in order to support high subscriber densities such as those found in densely populated parts of Asia. Having to shoulder these large upfront and ongoing operational costs does not create an attractive business case for most service providers. In order to bridge the digital divide in emerging economies, they need a wireless solution that allows them to enter markets quickly and cost-effectively, and enables them to deliver multimedia broadband services over one efficient network. That solution is Mobile WiMAX. Scalability and flexibility Mobile WiMAX is the most promising way to connect emerging economies in Asia and other unserved markets around the world for a number of reasons. Based on the latest IEEE 802.16e standard, it not only incorporates the most advanced radio, antenna and transport technologies, it is also the only broadband wireless access (BWA) solution that: • Scales reliably and cost-effectively to support high subscriber densities; • Delivers quad-play voice, data, video and future mobile broadband services on one integrated network; and, • Provides a fast path to profitability for service providers by minimizing initial infrastructure costs and allowing them to realize revenue as their wireless networks grow. One of the most important benefits of Mobile WiMAX, compared to other wireless technologies, is that it scales up gradually and adjusts to changing subscriber needs without requiring a major infrastructure overhaul. This scalability lets service providers enter unserved markets easily with minimal infrastructure investment and then expand their service offerings in line with subscriber demand, rather than according to a predetermined schedule. Mobile WiMAX also scales to support much higher subscriber densities than older wireless technologies. With Mobile WiMAX, service providers can support hundreds of subscribers per square kilometre while deploying less equipment than WiFi and cellular networks typically require, reducing the cost and complexity of their wireless infrastructures. Another key advantage of Mobile WiMAX technology is that it supports fixed, nomadic and mobile services all on the same wireless network. No other BWA solution offers service providers this kind of flexibility in deploying broadband services – or provides them with a future-proof path to mobility. Using Mobile WiMAX, service providers can initially roll out basic services that subscribers in emerging economies need most, such as fixed broadband to the home or small business. Once these formerly unserved subscribers are connected in the first wave of deployment, service providers can begin seeing a return on their investments even before their Mobile WiMAX infrastructures are fully established. By accelerating their profitability while reducing their business risk, Mobile WiMAX provides an incentive for service providers to quickly expand their service areas across emerging economies. It also provides the means for them to do so by allowing them to gradually add more sophisticated nomadic and mobile broadband services as market conditions change. Only Mobile WiMAX gives service providers the flexibility to phase in quad-play voice, data, video and mobile services over a single integrated broadband wireless network. For example, service providers can begin by offering fixed broadband data to the home, then add voice over IP (VoIP) and fax capability, then scale up to video-on-demand and other personalized video services, and finally offer full mobility for both residential and business subscribers – without building new wireless infrastructures or overhauling their existing wireless networks. Figures 1 and 2, below, illustrate the business case advantages of a phased Mobile WiMAX deployment. By starting small and scaling up gradually, service providers can speed their time to market and reduce their business risk in emerging economies. Conversely, the financial burden of starting with a wide-scale Mobile WiMAX deployment may actually slow return on investment, particularly for smaller service providers. Business Case JARING Communications Sdn. Bhd. is Malaysia’s largest independent ISP, with nearly one million subscribers and approximately 35 per cent market share. The company has been named Malaysia’s best ISP, and has long been at the forefront in deploying new technologies. JARING launched the first data link between Malaysia and the United States in 1992, was the first service provider to introduce broadband services in 2000, and was the first to deploy a nationwide MPLS network in 2001. This year, JARING announced its intent to deploy a nationwide broadband wireless network utilizing Mobile WiMAX technology. In 2004 the government of Malaysia announced a national initiative to bridge the digital divide and formally awarded JARING a licence to do so. Already one of Malaysia’s largest ISPs, JARING now had the go-ahead to begin developing Southeast Asia’s first large-scale, non-line of sight broadband wireless network with voice capability. The plan was to deliver broadband services across Malaysia, starting with the nation’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, and the surrounding Klang Valley business district, followed by expansion to other major metropolitan areas. JARING is well positioned to expand its market share by bundling voice with data services. Deploying Mobile WiMAX will enable JARING to do this quickly and cost-effectively by leapfrogging past traditional wireline infrastructure and offering reliable, affordable broadband services over a wireless network. It has already proven this model by deploying a pre-standard version of broadband wireless technology throughout Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley. Service offerings include tiered and bundled packages of high-speed Internet access, voice services and other broadband applications. JARING predicts that the number of broadband users in Malaysia will reach 1.5 million by 2008. By leveraging its existing customer base and the superior coverage offered by its Mobile WiMAX infrastructure, JARING forecasts winning well over 30 per cent market share by leveraging its brand name and the value proposition of its broadband service offerings. For Malaysia, the results are equally impressive. The nation’s new broadband infrastructure, powered by Mobile WiMAX, represents an enormous step forward in bridging the digital divide, technically and economically, for subscribers throughout Southeast Asia. JARING’s success in Malaysia is just one example of how emerging economies are embracing Mobile WiMAX as a broadband and voice delivery infrastructure. Governments throughout Southeast Asia, Latin America and other parts of the world have reserved and are in the process of releasing or auctioning licences for spectrum bands specifically for Mobile WiMAX infrastructures. Over the next two years, there will be many more Mobile WiMAX deployments and, therefore, massive gains in broadband and voice access throughout the world’s developing economies.