WiMax is making its greatest impact outside of the United States. This Springboard study says that WiMax revenue in the Asia Pacific region will grow from $58 million last year to $5.6 billion by 2012, and the number of users will grow from 230,000 to 33.9 million during the same period. The report says that India (35.7 percent) and Japan (16.9 percent) will be the largest markets in the region. The biggest vendors will be Motorola, Alcatel-Lucent, Samsung, Nortel and Cisco.
A Pyramid Research analyst suggests that WiMax providers, while likely to be successful in emerging markets, must play a careful game against the incumbent digital subscriber line (DSL) services. WiMax providers often charge quite a bit more for comparable downlink speeds. The faster uplink of WiMax may not support a substantial price premium.
The piece, in Wireless Design Asia, offers an interesting comparison between a DSL and a WiMax provider in Bulgaria. The WiMax provider, Max Telecom, charges $14 more ($32 versus $18) than the DSL provider, BTC. The only difference in the offering is that the uplink is 512 kbps, while the DSL provider only offers 128 kbps.
Another report released this week takes a broader view of Wi-Fi. Maravedis says that it added more than 200,000 new subscribers during the first quarter of 2008, which brings the total worldwide to almost 2 million. The most interesting element of the study in this report is the fact that about half of the 264 operators Maravedis followed only provide high-speed Internet, while the others offer additional services such as VoIP or video.
Developing nations clearly are eager for wireless broadband. There are private uses of the technology, such as a WiMax and wireless mesh combination from Nortel that will link the two campuses of the North Eastern Regional Institute of Science and Technology in the Arunachal Pradesh state of India. The rugged terrain, according to this story, makes use of traditional cable less than ideal.
But, of course, the real money will be made by licensed providers, and the jockeying is well under way. bdnews24.com reports that there is a lot of activity as the Bangladeshi government prepares to issue WiMax licenses. This suggests the potential for a vibrant market. The story describes a press conference during which the ISP Association of Bangladesh said that there are contradictions in the government's rules. The story says there are more than 500 unsanctioned ISPs in the nation. The ISPAB spokesperson suggested that these organizations, which could participate in the rollout of WiMax, should be worked into the regulatory framework.
Clearly, WiMax and broadband wireless have great potential in North America and Western Europe. Its earliest successes, however, may come from less developed regions.