Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Building a case for WiMAX

WiMAX is in the news. Globe Telecom recently launched a WiMAX service, boasting of a 2.5Ghz WiMAX (802.16e) broadband network, which is said to be the biggest in Southeast Asia.

This came four years after Intel Corp. and Innove Communications led the testing of a WiMAX site at Intel Corp.’s General Trias, Cavite plant.

In August last year, the Taguig City government announced that it would adopt WiMAX technology to help facilitate the delivery of basic services in the city. In 2007, a Taiwanese operator was reported to be eyeing a $10-million investment for a wireless Internet network in Subic, and was then looking at WiMAX as the network platform.

WiMAX or Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access is a telecommunications technology that provides broadband connectivity to wireless networks and makes possible the public’s aspiration for a fully mobile Internet access.

WiMAX is here. In a press forum hosted by Intel recently, Kevin Lim, Intel Corp.’s managing director of WiMAX for Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, announced that the WiMAX spectrum is indeed already available nationwide in the Philippines, beginning in the second half of 2008 on the 2.5Ghz band. This has allowed some operators to introduce the service.

Lim clarified that there is really no demand for WiMAX per se but what the computing public is clamoring for is Internet broadband capability, both fixed and mobile. WiMAX will simply enable users to access the Internet at true broadband speeds wirelessly. This means that the speed of current wired broadband Internet connection will now be available on mobile Internet devices (MIDs) such as smartphones and cellphones, netbooks and notebooks anytime, anywhere.

The wireless world has been greatly changed once by Wi-Fi. When it was launched in 2002, wireless LAN was a niche technology, said Lim. Today, almost all notebooks, netbooks and MIDs are Wi-Fi-capable.

“WiMAX aims to extend the open, full Internet experience of Wi-Fi with mobile devices capable of replicating the home or work Internet experience on the go,” explained Lim.

The need for WiMAX

It is a fact: the Internet is big and growing even bigger. Lim cited figures: 1.4 billion Internet users, 150 million websites, 1.5 billion Web searches every day. Moreover, there are approximately one billion users of Instant Messengers (IMs), while 10 hours of new video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Around 10,000 blogs are created daily.

This robust online activity is pushing the demand for broadband and the current network is quite unable to keep up with the demand. In the Philippines alone, the number of Internet users is 14 million, which makes it among Asia’s top 10 Internet countries.

However, in a country with approximately 14 million Internet users, only 1.3 million households are subscribed to broadband Internet. WiMAX could close the gap, as a fully mobile Internet is made available.

“Fixed broadband installations exhibit geographic limitations for countries with rural populations, and because of this, there is a growing demand toward mobile broadband services,” said Intel Technology Philippines Inc. country manager Ricky Banaag.

“Next-generation technology such as WiMAX can be the more cost-effective, back-haul solution to help build out this infrastructure to help drive growth,” he added.

Not a competitor of 3G

With the push for WiMAX gaining momentum not just in the Philippines but worldwide, Lim emphasized that it is not a competitor or an alternative to 3G.

“Its purpose is to create a new market category, which is mobile broadband Internet,” he said.

3G, he said, is a voice network and is really for voice but WiMAX is a 4G wireless broadband network suited well for data services.

Mobile WiMAX will continue to evolve, said Lim. At present, mobile broadband is available at 60+ Mbps through Mobile WiMAX 1.0 at 802.16e. However, in 2009 and beyond it will be available to achieve mobile broadband speed of 125+ Mbps (for Mobile WiMAX 1.5 on 802.16e Rev 2), and even 300+ Mbps (for Mobile WiMAX 2.0 on 802.16m).

Lim said even the basic Mobile WiMAX 802.16e could deliver fixed (at home or the office or any fixed location) or nomadic (outdoors or in non-fixed locations) access and full mobility (while on the move — in buses, trains, cars) to users depending on the packages to be rolled out by operators.

Spectrum policies are also aligning and efforts are underway to harmonize spectrum profiles in the region.

According to the WiMAX Forum, an industry-led, non-profit organization, WiMAX service providers now cover 430 million people in 135 countries. Locally, the push for WiMAX is being driven by collaboration among telecommunication service providers, policymakers and Intel.

Last year, Intel announced WiMAX-ready chipsets built on its Montevina platform, which means that devices running on these chipsets should be able to use WiMAX technology once it is deployed.

Lim bared that they are working with most PC manufacturers for the rollout of devices that are WiMAX-ready within the year.
By Eden Estopace - Phil Star

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