Worldwide WiMAX Growth Wows

When it comes to the next generation of wireless broadband, the carriers seem to have the Long Term Evolution standard, or LTE, all sewn up, but the competing 4G service WiMAX is nothing to scoff at. WiMAX service, deployed in the U.S. by Sprint and 13 rural carriers, is gaining ground in other areas of the world, especially India, according to data published today by TeleGeography Research.

The research firm said the number of commercial WiMAX networks worldwide grew 82 percent — to 126 from 69 — between the third quarter of 2007 and the same period this year. For rural access, WiMAX is a technology that can replace existing low-speed modems and satellite broadband communications, making it popular in developing countries. Even in the U.S., carriers such as FairPoint Communications, which said today it would deploy a WiMAX network in New England for rural access, and AT&T are eying the technology as a cheaper alternative to laying fiber or more copper. So WiMAX may not be living up to its earlier hype as the dominant wireless broadband technology, but it’s still a market with legs.

chart courtesy of TeleGeography Research

WiMAX, an approximate acronym of Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, is a telecommunications technology that provides for the wireless transmission of data using a variety of transmission modes, from point-to-point links to full mobile cellular-type access. The technology provides upto 70 Mb/sec symmetric broadband speed without the need for cables. The technology is based on the IEEE 802.16 standard (also called WirelessMAN). The name “WiMAX” was created by the WiMAX Forum, which was formed in June 2001 to promote conformity and interoperability of the standard. The forum describesWiMAX as “a standards-based technology enabling the delivery of last mile wireless broadband access as an alternative to cable and DSL”(and also to High Speed Packet Access).

Currently, Pakistan has the largest fully functional WiMAX network in the world. Wateen Telecom installed the network (with an initial rollout in seventeen cities) throughout Pakistan using Motorola hardware. Wateen is also planning to expand its network and eventually cover 71 cities in Pakistan.