Tag Archives: wimax

WiMAX and Emerging Markets

Although many predict WiMAX failure almost before it is born, the reality is that WiMAX is far from dead.

Emerging markets (Africa, India, South East Asia or Latin America) have such a lack of proper fixed broadband that WiMAX becomes a cost effective alternative to ADSL, with the additional value of mobility.

It is true that in developed markets (US, Europe, Australia, Japan…) there might be no room for WiMAX, due to the extensive offering of multi-Mbps broadband and HSDPA mobile broadband plans. But emerging markets still need to fill the digital divide gap, and WiMAX is an effective way to do it.

Intel recently announced that Centrino 2 will have built-in WiMAX support. The initial availability, though, will only be for 2.5 GHz band, which leaves some emerging markets with 2.3 GHz and 3.5 GHz licensees, waiting some more months before enjoying the ubiquity of WiMAX support that the Centrino platform will bring to laptops.

Intel delay for some of these markets is not delaying commercial launch and as an example Malaysia already enjoy commercial WiMAX, thanks to Packet One.

The PC penetration in these markets is still low, but cheaper laptops and specially affordable netbooks as the Asus Eee PC are rapidly increasing the number of computers.  And for people owning a laptop, instead of a desktop, wireless broadband with mobility is a much better deal than ADSL.

Why we need WiMAX?

TechCrunch post today about WiMAX, Why Cable And WiMax Shouldn’t Mix, clearly misses the point. Their two conclusion items are misconceived, not to say wrong:

1. TechCrunch says: “WiMax is more an alternative to fixed broadband Internet access than it is to mobile phone service
TechCrunch seems to ignore that WiMAX Rev-d brings mobility and it is the one being deployed now in many operators. Wimax is about mobile broadband, something 3G operators are supposed to provide, but they only do at a prohibitive price, due to lack of competition.

2. TechCrunch brilliant idea: “It no longer makes sense to try to own all the pipes because pipes are becoming a commodity
It seems that for TechCrunch it makes more sense to invest billions in Social Networks, Speech-to-text start-ups, with no business case to make a profit, than in a business to provide a communication service for which customers are willing to pay. Ask telcos, where their billions in profit come from… yes, from those “commodity pipelines”
Network infrastructure is an asset. Millions of users of a free service, e.g. Skype, is not necessarily an asset. Ask eBay what they think now of the multi-billion valuation of Skype, that they later wrote-off.

As a user, I welcome WiMAX to bring more competition to mobile communications in something mobile operators have failed to mass market: Mobile Broadband. Partly due to mobile telcos greed to over charge data based on volume, partly for their fear to congest their spectrum, we are far from ubiquitous wireless IP access.

WiMAX is a disruptive technology with better spectral efficiency (higher bitrate for the same spectrum), designed with IP in mind, and backed by Intel to be seamlessly supported in laptops, the same way Wifi is today. But WiMAX operators will not only do Mobile Broadband. The guys at TechCrunch have probably heard about VoIP. By deploying IMS, these operators will be able to offer voice, video, presence, IM and many other services from a WiMAX handset. Can that compete with a 2G/3G mobile phone? Skype is the proof that it can. IMS just enables a Skype-like service but carrier-grade, with QoS control provided by the network.

TechCrunch might have jump into WiMAX only because of the fiasco for Xohm in the US market, but WiMAX is taking off in other markets (India, Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia), and hopefully this new backing from Comcast, Intel, Time Warner, Google and Brigh House will bring WimAX to US too, the big way.

Still skeptical, GigaOM addresses the story with more detail in: CableCos Join The $3 Billion U.S. WiMAX Rescue Act

Back from Barcelona Mobile World Congress

I am just back in KL, after an interesting week in Barcelona. Apart from customer dinners and meeting old friends, the Congress reflected the opportunities and concerns of a changing industry, where Telcos fight to retain value, Telecom Vendors bring innovations to help Telcos, and new Media and Internet companies enter the Mobile space.

Apart from iPhone, Android and other Mobile OS talks, the most spoken topics around wireless technology were:

-Many announcements and discussions about LTE, as the one of Alcatel-Lucent and NEC joining forces to bring 4G faster to the market. Speculation that some emerging markets might go from 2.5G to LTE, skipping 3G/UMTS.

– Intel kept reinforcing their support for WiMAX on the CPE, as new telecom vendors contracts were announced

Mobile Advertisement, with companies as Alcatel-Lucent showing video ad insertion , and other as Yahoo positioning for agreements with operators for mobile advertisement in the search and WAP area. See our previous post on the matter.

But the two topics that will have the biggest impact in 2008 are : Femto Cells and Mobile TV

Femto cells are IP based BSR (Node-B and RNC in one box) that provide indoor 3G/UMTS at home backhauled through broadband (ADSL, fiber, etc). Femto will be used by 3G telcos to sell to the user a better indoor coverage for both voice, data and high quality video. More interestingly, Femto will enable straight-forward HomeZone charging with lower rates: e.g. unlimited data flat rates at home, as no radio resource is shared, will make 3G data plans more appealing, even replacing Wifi. Femto will also allow Mobile telcos to bundle their offering with broadband ADSL or similar. And furthermore, once a telco has a Femto cell at the end-user home, the telco can easily handle the complete family communications budget, including broadband, all the 3G mobiles at home, and all 3G data-enabled laptops of the family, all in the same bill.

Mobile TV is getting more and more traction with Mobile Operators, specially those who already have a sister company managing content rights. The model forward is to offer an easy-to-use Rich Media Client to handle both broadcast channels (via DVB-H or DVB-SH), as well as unicast channels for VoD, Catch-up-TV, or other pre-recorded channels. The Telco needs to work as a broadcaster, making sure content is updated, and channels are conveniently packaged. Mobile operators will face competition from Internet sites, such as YouTube, already offering the service on the mobile, but with proper exclusivity agreements for premium content, operators can relegate YouTube to be a complementary service for user-generated free content.

Mobile World Congress 2008 Barcelona

Next week in Barcelona we have the yearly Mobile World Congress, the biggest event of the Mobile industry. The theme for this year is “Ubiquitous Mobile Services”, but could have been well re-named as “Ubiquitous transformation”, as the industry is more than ever in a continuous change.

What are the main axes on which the industry is transforming, on which there will be a focus in Barcelona?

Universal Broadband:Wimax, Long Term Evolution (LTE) and 4G. Femto cells as part of the Digital Home
IP Transformation: “all-IP” networks are a reality for the transport and the Core Network. Evolution to IMS to enable Multimedia Services blended with Internet and Web 2.0
Mobile Entertainment: Broadcast Mobile TV, Interactive TV and Advertisement. Monetizing the knowledge of your customers. Enabling UGC
New business models: MVNO, wholesale, RAN sharing
New handsets: convergent smartphones (mp3, phone, camera, PDA, video, wifi, email…) with iPhone as a reference, as well as future Android. Also new terminals for specific use bundled with applications: health-care, metering, surveillance, automobile, or Amazon Kindle

Mobile Operators are threatened by smarter phones, and by Internet players, to become dumb pipes or pure Mobile Connectivity Service Providers (MCSP). Many MSPs will show in Barcelona how they are transforming, or planning to, to avoid becoming MCSPs. We will report it from Barcelona next week.

Telecom, Internet and Media in 2008

Robosapiens 2008 Robosapiens 2008 Robosapiens 2008

Technologies that will transform our lives in 2008


Wimax. Asia will lead in 2008, where greenfield operators will deploy Wimax networks in Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Malaysia. Wimax has strong support for end-devices, with Intel and Taiwanese vendors among others, and the spectrum efficiency is superior to 3G. Incumbent wireless operators will still invest in 3G evolutions, as HSDPA, but will be pushed to more compelling end-user offers by competition from new Wimax players.
For many end-users, “broadband on the go” will be a reality in 2008.

IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS). IMS enables rich services like Presence, Instant Messaging or intelligent call routing, under the Operator control. With IMS as the obvious choice for Wimax network, 2008 might see initial IMS commercial offerings. Open mobile handsets like iPhone and Android will accelerate the evolution to IMS for incumbent wireless, as these devices enable multimedia applications that Operators will prefer to control.

Android direct impact will be small in 2008, but the indirect impact in the industry is huge, setting the trend to open handsets, and anticipating the power of the innovations that Google can bring.

IPTV keeps steady subscriber growth worldwide, delivering features that are exclusive to IPTV: HDTV, Catch-up TV, TV communication services (SMS, Videoconference and voice) and Interactive TV applications, including Interactive Advertisement.

Mobile TV Broadcast trials will turn into commercial in Europe, following Italy and Finland. DVB-H and DVB-SH are the preferred technologies. Expect many technology trials in 2008. Mass market in 2009.

Internet and Media

Social Networks. New applications will come on top of existing platforms, with attention to Google OpenSocial as an enabler for these new apps. Special emphasis in how to monetize the knowledge provided by social interactions, and translate it into targeted advertisement.

Internet TV. 2007 was the year of Youtube. Content owners are quickly adapting and re-positioning. 2008 will see more content owners embracing YouTube and others as a channel.

Death of DRM for Music, as Amazon recent deal with Warner Music illustrates. Music industry transformation is unstoppable. They will find ways to survive.

Console fight is not over yet. Wii surprised us in 2007, but PS3 and Xbox360 have still more to say as new games fully use their technological powers.

Digital Home. Increasing demand for NAS (Network-Attached Storage) at home. On one side as a back-up for media libraries (pictures, music and videos), but also as an always-on low power server, with BitTorrent support, and a shared storage for the family members personal laptops. On the other had, the battle for the definitive set-top-box / Home Theater PC / Media Center/ Jukebox / Media Extender is far from settled. So far my take is a Mac Mini for HW and LinuxMCE for Software. But 2008 will bring more options and some light.

Linux and Open Source are winning on the Server, but Desktop not occupied yet. 2008 should be the year of the final attach to the desktop by Ubuntu and maybe other partners.

Global warming and others:

In general, the global climate concerns will translate into demand from conscious consumers for lower power consumption, as we already see in Servers moving into Blades and the appearance at home of low power NAS boxes, replacing the desktop PC as always-on home server.

But, wait a minute… what about Robots? Will 2008 bring any news beyond Roomba, Robosapiens and Aibo? Watch out.

Is there a business case for WiMAX?

WIMAX promises Mobile Broadband at much lower cost for operators than current 3G technologies, thanks to better spectrum efficiency and an architecture conceived for IP. For the user, WiMAX will have a similar behaviour as Wifi -plus the advantage of ubiquitous coverage and mobility- i.e.:

High bandwidth Internet Access
Ease of configuration
– WiMAX support integrated in laptops (Intel is a strong supported of WiMAX)

Alternative operators with WiMAX licenses are preparing to compete with incumbent 3G mobile networks. Malaysia and Taiwan are two countries where WiMAX activity is frantic. Taiwanese Government interest in having a solid national industry for PCs, CPEs and handsets, are strongly backing new-entrants to WiMAX, such as Tatung or Global Mobile. The lack of quality broadband in Malaysia makes Wimax a compelling alternative.

But WiMAX operators success will depend on how they position in the market:

Pure Broadband Service Provider. Will they compete with Fixed broadband players, or complement them? Is the end-user likely to subscribe to both a fixed access provider and a Wireless one? Will a flat-fee for a pipe service justify the investment, or should they add applications on top, as IPTV, Music, etc?

NextGen Mobile Operators. Can WiMAX sustain an offer similar to that of 3G operators, including Voice, Messaging, and other VAS (Value-Added Services), only now purely based on IP (VoIP, SMS, etc) . Will the end-users accept to have a WiMAX handset, replacing their current mobile phone? Will they rely on VoIP as a replacement of the GSM/3G phone?

Recent news of Sprint stopping their huge bet on WiMAX (it was foreseen a 5 Billion USD investment), is a set-back as this was probably the largest deployment in the World, but WiMAX industry support remains healthy.

WiMAX is backed by almost all industry vendors: Alcatel-Lucent, Motorola, Nortel, Cisco, Intel, with the exception of Ericsson that keeps focus on improving 3G data capabilities with HSDPA and 3G LTE, to defend their current UMTS market share.

Strong user demand for Mobile Broadband exists. Will WiMAX operators find the way to satisfy this demand.. and that of their shareholders?