WiMAX on an upswing

WiMAX, acronym for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, is fast becoming popular in the Asian IT industry during the last few years. Even though it is still difficult to predict its future, WiMAX technology is definitely gaining steam recently.

In the 2008 edition of CommunicAsia, the IT trade show, a conference track was created exclusively for WiMAX. The trade show had always given prominence to WiMAX technology in the past. However, this is the first time that so much importance is bestowed on it.

Taking into account the growing popularity of WiMAX technology in Asian IT scene, WiMAX Forum, the nonprofit organization, which promotes the technology, launched WiMAX Forum Congress Asia, its Asian chapter, for the first time.

Bill Rojas, Research Director of IDC’s Asia-Pacific Communications Research explains the phenomenon as recognition for its ability to adapt to suit various applications. It is useful as a wireless DSL for desktops and other devices to connect to the Internet. It also extends Wi-Fi capability in mobile devices.

The reputation of WiMAX technology has grown to such proportions that its functions are incorporated into Intel’s Centrino chips. The Taiwanese manufacturers of notebooks are including the features in their processors. Various networks that are either launched or being launched from the Asian countries like Malaysia, Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh, are using the technology.

Future of WiMAX

WiMAX technology may find its best utility in furnishing broadband connectivity to growing markets. With the support of the latest access technologies, WiMAX may occupy center stage in the near future, says Foong King Yew, Research Director (Communications), Gartner.

The telephone companies are showing keen interest in WiMAX technology, as it is IP-centric. The alternative, 3G is mostly a cellular-related technology. By embracing WiMAX technology, the telephone service providers could provide broadband facilities to its major consumer base in rural areas.

In spite of all these advantages, WiMAX has many drawbacks in scaling dizzying heights of success. The first and foremost of these being WiMAX has to face an uphill task in uprooting the established 3G technology, which enjoys unstinted support from service providers, vendors and developers alike.

Another setback for WiMAX is that its allotment is not considered ideal for this region. WiMAX licenses are being issued to smaller telecom services rather than the already established ones. The regulators do this after taking into consideration the competition laws. The drawback of this arrangement is that these smaller companies may not have the wherewithal to build the required infrastructure. Constructing transmission towers can be very expensive for the smaller service providers.

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