WiMAX To Drive Broadband Convergence

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Emerging broadband wireless access technologies such as WiMAX and 802.20 will blur divisions between fixed and mobile broadband services. Future BWA providers will be able to offer a single subscription including broadband access in the home and high speed mobile data services on the move, according to a new report from wireless experts Senza-Fili Consulting and BWCS.

WiFi, WiMAX and 802.20: The Disruptive Potential of Wireless Broadband  concludes that new 802-based BWA technologies have the potential to create new broadband services that transcend existing business models for DSL, cable and 3G. While this vision is at least five years away, report author Monica Paolini warns that service providers need to start positioning themselves today to take advantage of it.

She said: “While there is still some work to do on standards and interoperability, there is growing vendor momentum behind BWA technologies and WiMAX in particular. Service providers need to start making decisions now about technologies and market strategies so they are ready to ride the BWA wave when products become available.”

Technologies such as 802.16 and 802.20 offer the potential to deliver both fully mobile broadband internet access (at speeds of up to 250kph) and fixed broadband services. These could be offered over the same infrastructure as separate services or as a combined broadband subscription. Paolini said: “Wireless broadband services that combine fixed and mobile access will be tied to the subscriber, rather than a location (home or office), with the subscriber free to use service anywhere within the coverage area.”

While the mobile variants of 802-based BWA have the most disruptive potential, the first WiMAX products to appear will be designed for portability only. Based on the soon-to-be-ratified 802.16RevD standard, these will be designed for delivering broadband access to homes, offices and public WiFi hotspots. Service providers in the US, UK and South Korea are already carrying out trials of pre-WiMAX and pre-802.20 technologies for delivering broadband services in rural and metropolitan areas. 

Paolini said: “BWA has had a few false dawns already but this time round we have more robust, cheaper technologies and standards-based contenders like WiMAX which have broad industry support. This threatens to have a huge impact on the economics and market potential of BWA services.”

The new study forecasts that there will be 10 million BWA subscribers in the US alone by 2008. Of these the majority (49%) will be mobile business users.

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