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Believing in a Very Optimistic WiMAX Forecast

Last year was remarkable for the development of WiMAX in the Asia-Pacific region, as a solid foundation was laid by the joint efforts of market regulators, operators and eager equipment vendors, reports In-Stat.

From a lean base of 0.27 million in 2006, total WiMAX subscribers in 16 Asia-Pacific countries are expected to reach 31.43 million by 2012, the high-tech market research firm says. Granted, that seems like a very optimistic growth forecast, but I share the belief that there's a strong upside potential for service adoption.

"In emerging countries where current household broadband penetration rates are extremely low, governments have quickly built a pro-WiMAX regulatory framework," says Victor Liu, In-Stat analyst. "One temporary setback, though, was WiMAX subscriber growth developing more slowly than expected in South Korea due to limited network coverage and lack of user devices."

I also believe that two issues need to stay under close scrutiny. First, WiMAX key network building block components must be affordable for pilot projects, and in particular the whole notion of a mandatory requirement for "carrier class" hardware should be questioned -- because CAPEX costs can escalate quickly when using a legacy telco mindset.

Second, WiMAX doesn't have to be an end-to-end connectivity solution. A couple of years ago I wrote a commentary entitled "Deliverance: the Unlicensed Marriage of Wi-Fi and WiMAX" and I'm still hopeful that an 802.16-based wireless backbone infrastructure can link together Wi-Fi hot spot "islands" into an extensive community network "continent."

In-Stat's market study found the following:

- The Asia-Pacific WiMAX market will grow to $8 billion in 2012.

- The South Korean version of mobile WiMAX, Wibro services, was commercialized in June.

- Carrier spending of WiMAX and WiMAX-backhauled Wi-Fi network equipment will escalate from $394.9 million in 2006 to $2908.9 million in 2012.

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