|Asia-Pacific I 2008
|WiMAX – a strategic move
|Vice President, Marketing & Business Development
|Redline Communications Inc.
Kevin Suitor is the Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for Redline Communications Inc., a manufacturer of standards-based broadband fixed wireless access and backhaul solutions. Mr Suitor is also Redline’s delegate for WiMAX and sits on the Marketing Working Group for WiMAX. Mr Suitor has been actively involved over the years in the ATM Forum and Wireless Communications Association. He has written numerous articles in several industry publications, is a regular speaker on topics such as Broadband Fixed Wireless, 803.16, WiMAX, softswitches, Voice over IP, ATM, Gigabit Ethernet and Virtual Private Networks.
WiMAX is essentially a standardised version of proprietary radio technologies that have long existed. Standardisation of these technologies makes it possible to inexpensively and reliably build networks using industry certified, interoperable, low-cost, interchangeable components from a wide variety of manufacturers. WiMAX is becoming the technology of choice for the deployment of wireless voice and data infrastructure given its low cost, scalability, ease of deployment and quick return on investment. Operators in emerging economies are quickly adopting WiMAX to build their networks.
Telecommunications expansion is not a goal in and of itself, but rather a means to support economic, political, and social goals. Our daily lives continue to be profoundly altered by advancements in technology, and nothing demonstrates this more than the difference WiMAX is making in both emerging and developed markets. WiMAX – the technology WiMAX, based upon the IEEE SA 802.16 Standard, is an exciting and unique technology choice for enterprises, governments and network operators. It delivers cost-effective, secure, high-bandwidth fixed, portable and mobile broadband data services wirelessly to metropolitan areas with much less infrastructure and costs than traditionally associated with today’s mobile wireless networks. The technology is capable of being scaled to national level deployments wherever a national regulator has allocated sufficient contiguous spectrum for the desired network footprint. In the most simplistic terms, WiMAX requires a tower, similar to a mobile phone tower, connected to the Internet using a standard high-speed connection, such as a STM-1 line. As opposed to a traditional fixed line Internet Service Provider (ISP), which provides bandwidth to customers via copper wire, it uses a radio frequency link to establish the access network connection between the customer and the network using a point-to-multipoint architecture. It is an ideal way for carriers to deliver broadband to locations where wired connections would be more difficult, costly or too time consuming to build. The business case for WiMAX is attractive. A combination of interoperable components based on open standards, mass adoption of subscriber units, and high capacity base stations reduces the cost of the infrastructure equipment. WiMAX equipment is certified by the WiMAX Forum to be interoperable with other equipment in the same spectrum band. Interoperability gives more terminal and base station choices to network operators and increases competition among vendors. Network operators are not dependent on a single vendor to provide both base stations and subscriber units or to decide the pace and availability of upgrades. The cost of open-standard equipment tends to decrease rapidly with increases in volume and the market entry of high-volume, low-cost vendors. The integration of WiFi and WiMAX in a single chipset, and the commitment by device manufactures to incorporate a WiMAX interface into their new products, are expected to contribute to an even deeper cost reduction for subscriber units. The availability of low-cost subscriber units will further encourage adoption from subscribers and, in turn, the presence of a large installed base will make deployments of the infrastructure more attractive to network operators. In addition, its low latency and wide area coverage ensures reliable delivery of delay-sensitive services, in particular, Voice over Internet Protocol, (VoIP), video and prioritized data traffic, within a 1km to 20km service range.WiMAX is also scalable and upgradeable and has the potential of high capacity data rate (over time) of up to 35 Mbps in a single sector or 100 Mbps within a single base station. As a result of its contained infrastructure costs, efficient spectrum utilization, and reliability, service providers are able to address the mass market’s demand for portable personal broadband services at a price that both business and consumer users will find attractive. In fact, WiMAX deployment can occur in all verticals – from small to large enterprises and residential markets to wireless hotspot and backhaul networks. The WiMAX playing field WiMAX is here and it is being deployed successfully. The fact that the WiMAX industry is heating up is demonstrated by the sales figures. According to Infonetics Research most recent report, WiMAX and Outdoor Mesh Network Equipment, the worldwide sales of fixed and mobile WiMAX equipment is up six per cent in 3Q07 to US$206 million following a 14 per cent jump in 2Q07. Even leading blue chip companies like Vodafone, Clearwire and Sprint Nextel, recognizing the benefits of WiMAX last mile solutions, have jumped into the game. Nevertheless, to achieve a real return-on-investment (ROI), network operators must have a firm understanding of their: • Market drivers – motivation and market need; • Service offerings – business objectives and timeline; and, • Technology choices – how their current architecture will be complemented and supported by WiMAX. Only once this is fully understood can a business strategy be developed and a strategic plan for deploying and profiting from WiMAX be realized. WiMAX ROI An operator with a well-thought-out WiMAX deployment is Personal, a leading Paraguayan mobile and WiMAX carrier and subsidiary of Telecom Argentina. Personal first deployed WiMAX in the spring of 2007 in the cities of Asunción and Greater Asunción. Its mandate was clear – to increase the availability of Internet access for the Paraguayan population. To realize this goal, Personal needed a high capacity, high performance and scalable system that cost-effectively supported multiple users. A WiMAX solution that supports up to 500 users within a single sector, made a rapid ROI not only plausible but also achievable within a one-year timeframe. In Personal’s situation, their initial WiMAX deployment phase generated a rapid return on their investment, enabling it to quickly initiate a network plan to expand its services to more customers in additional regions. Personal expects to triple the number of subscribers on its network to 10,000 by year-end 2007, resulting in one of the world’s largest WiMAX Forum Certified networks to date. A mass business model To obtain a fast ROI from their WiMAX networks, operators need cost effective residential equipment like indoor subscriber unites supported by back end OSS/BSS solutions. Rapid user self-installation must also be available. This is an effective last-mile solution for delivering broadband to the home. Alternatively, an operator may use a WiMAX modem to bring broadband internet service to a building or small business and then interconnect to WiFi, Ethernet or DSL distribution systems to deliver data to multiple end users at that site. Complement this trend with WiMAX enabled portable devices such as laptops and handheld devices, and the landscape changes completely creating a new paradigm for broadband Internet access. Access to information opens the doors to wider economic and social development opportunities; this is a major reason for early WiMAX adoption among developing countries. Hotspot Business Solutions (Hotspot), a regional telecommunications provider in Tanzania, epitomizes this example. Hotspot wants to bring Tanzania into the modern telecommunication era. To do so, it has recently launched the first phase of its WiMAX network, delivering commercial WiMAX services to Dar es Salaam, the country’s premier commercial centre, along with Mwanza and Arusha. By focusing on an initial commercial launch, Hotspot hopes to generate funds for its second phase in January – which will bring WiMAX services to the capital city of Dodoma, Morogoro and Zanzibar. With its six-city WiMAX network, Hotspot’s goal is to deliver high-quality voice, video and data Internet services to government agencies, corporations, educational institutions across Tanzania, becoming a catalyst for positive change for Tanzanians. With a WiMAX network that supports a greater capacity of subscribers than traditional networks, a ROI can be realized within a year. The same social focus also applied to Personal. Among the many objectives of Personal’s WiMAX network, its main goal was to increase the availability of Internet access for the Paraguayan population, especially its youth. As a result, along with the development of its WiMAX network, Personal introduced a Social Responsibility Project that fully equipped computer laboratories with personal computers, printers and free Internet access at schools operating in low income areas. WiMAX is a powerful broadband technology and its affordability makes it possible to provide universal, ubiquitous, equitable and affordable access to information which, in turn, contributes significantly to bridging the Digital Divide as illustrated by Personal and Hotspot. Open WiMAX Tier One Carriers worldwide like China NetCom, ITC and STC in Saudi Arabia, Teledata Mozambique, Personal Paraguay, and Zain Bahrain (formerly MTC Vodafone) accept WiMAX. Its cost-effectiveness and adaptability also explain its wide adoption within various vertical applications, like surveillance, public safety, and connectivity to remote devices, inventory tracking, fleet management and educational services. The growth of WiMAX is documented by analyst’s studies. The Yankee Group, for example, expects that the number of WiMAX subscribers will reach eight million by the end of 2008. WiMAX is now recognized as the most cost-effective and reliable solution for delivering advanced communication broadband services where infrastructure does not exist. Yet, to be successful, those deploying this technology, must carefully select WiMAX products and technologies that are capable of delivering the services they need, scaling over time to support a growing mix of business and residential services within a single network. A commitment to full certification and proven interoperability is necessary from equipment manufacturers, software developers and content providers in order to create an Open Architecture. By building networks based on products that support an open architecture, vendors can ensure that their WiMAX access networks can interface with the operator’s core network. This is critically important – Open Architectures let service providers deploy best-of-breed WiMAX network solutions that enable sustainable differentiation of their service offering to both businesses and consumers.