Can WiMAX and 3G mobile technologies co-exit?

By : |May 31, 2007 0

BANGALORE: With the recent certification taking off for the WiMAX IEEE standard 802.16e, technology innovators and operators are igniting a widespread commitment to use its potential in delivering benefits of the technology to the masses in an affordable manner. In the midst of this fast race for deployment, the question however, lingers on how WiMAX will co-exist with other mobile technologies.

Because WiMAX provides complete suite of services including fixed and mobile delivery of broadband data, voice and video streams to a full array of end-user devices, one might believe its benefits sound familiar to 3G and question its necessity or its ability to succeed.


Currently, there are just over 2 million broadband subscribers in India, which is less than 0.2% penetration. With that large market potential, the smartest players have come to realize (whether they be operators, equipment makers or device manufacturers) that WiMAX is no foe to 3G. On the contrary, the industry is realizing that it’s the complementary key to evolving next-generation networks.

Adopting WiMAX can help India overcome its broadband infrastructure woes and leapfrog to a technology that not only provides broadband connectivity in fixed mode but will extend that experience to mobility with WiMAX being able to offer VoIP services in addition to broadband data.

WiMAX technology is also an effective tool for connecting the Unconnected. Indian rural markets with very limited or no access to broadband services can now be served using WiMAX technology. This can be achieved without the need for extensive infrastructure elements, thereby solving the time and complexity issues associated with “last mile” and eliminating the risks and costs associated with laying copper in the ground.

Applications such as distance education, tele-medicine and e-Governance and local language based entertainment content become possible to be delivered to these large underserved market segments of India.


Latest Yankee Group report (Jan 2007) has predicted international network infrastructure investments for WiMAX will increase from $550 million in 2006 to $3.90 billion in 2010 as service provider deployments accelerate.

Carriers, operators and service providers all recognize that to sustain their business long term, they need to devise the right mix of applications and bundle services (fixed and mobile) at affordable prices to lock in subscriber loyalty, entice new customers and enter new market segments and hence increase their average revenue per user (ARPU). WiMAX can help them meet this challenge by extending coverage and opening doors to business opportunity from new market segments.

Existing cellular service providers planning to upgrade to 3G networks also can benefit from WiMAX. Cellular operators are looking for upgrade to 3G predominantly to create more voice capacity in the network. High end subscribers utilizing congested 2G networks are expected to be upgraded to 3G network thus creating voice capacity in 2G networks. By leveraging the spectrum efficient radio access and IP-core networks of WiMAX, operators will be able to cost-effectively dedicate their 3G spectrum for circuit-based voice and medium-end data services, while using WiMAX to deliver large broadband IP-based multimedia to improve profit margins. That’s because WiMAX can deliver high-speed data at substantially lower cost as compared to many of the current wireless networks. Such potential has caught the attention of the entire industry.


WiMAX is not restricted to fixed broadband access but can provide the seamless mobility that consumers need to access applications at work, at home and in transit. This will be especially important to the growing mobile workforce. With WiMAX, these individuals can enjoy their personal broadband experience while they move across access networks. For example, one could seamlessly move an IP Based video teleconference from a wireless local area network (WiFi) at the office to the cellular WiMAX or 3G environment on handheld and to a fixed wireless WiMAX environment when at home. True seamless access and mobile transactions are not far off with reuse of the existing back-office billing systems, CRM applications for WiMAX networks.

WiMAX thus becomes an interesting choice of technology for cellular & fixed operators and enables them to now additionally serve many new market segments in a cost effective and complementary manner along with their present bouquet of service offerings.

Eventually, each technology has its own strengths which must be assessed in the context of an operator’s business case and customer needs. In this context, therefore, it may be inappropriate to see these technologies in competition or conflict with one another. Instead, they should be seen as complementary to one another, with the potential to co-exist and best serve unique sets of customer expectations while creating many new revenue opportunities for service providers.

Regardless of how it is adopted and what applications first take hold, WiMAX, will provide more than just a strong platform for convergence – it will provide the pathway for success by giving people what they want, when and where they want it.


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