News From Telecom World

WiMAX vs. 3G (continues)

Posted on: September 25, 2008

Should Bangladesh adopt WiMax technology to spread broadband data transmission facility now, or should it be 3GSM technology? Or maybe Bangladesh should wait a few more months to see if Long Term Evolution (LTE) is making a significant jump in broadband worldwide.

These are some debating points for information technology (IT) experts now. The debate is being fuelled by the Bangladesh Telecommunic-ation Regulatory Commission (BTRC), which floated an auction yesterday to award licences for WiMax technology operation in the country.

The BTRC’s tilt to WiMax is in line with 19 other countries that introduced the technology in the recent years. WiMax is still undergoing major evolution. South Korea and Pakistan aside, it is yet to become a dominant technology in any nation. Pakistan is the only country that provides fully functional WiMax coverage. It has also been introduced in India.

Supporters of WiMax say it is now the heavyweight wireless data transmission technology in the market and much superior to 3GSM and more ‘evolved’ than the newly introduced GSM line of technology named LTE.

Rivals supporting GSM technology say WiMax is not a standardised technology like the GSM; it is very ‘single vendor’ focussed (all parts of a network set may be manufactured by a single vendor whereas, GSM allows multiple vendors) and it is costly and may take many years to implement.

They argue, the 3G technology that proudly runs 200 networks worldwide can be implemented in six to eight months because all it needs are changes in some hardware of the country’s GSM-based mobile telecom network. The cost of upgrading to 3G in Bangladesh will be minimal and for a poor country like Bangladesh, it would mean, customers will not be burdened by high costs.

“WiMax licensing can turn fruitless because of the cost factors. The licences will block precious spectrum and thus hinder implementation of other technologies like LTE for broadband,” says an IT expert working for a leading cellular technology company.

A third view about this subject comes from another IT consultant who provides infrastructure support to telecom companies. “WiMax and LTE are in the same footing — not WiMax and 3G. That’s why, after obtaining multibillion-dollar licensing for 3G many operators in Europe did not go for complete 3G implementation,” he said.

“In that light, the BTRC should have really waited until January-February before floating the auction. By that time, the industry expects some major developments worth waiting for,” he pointed.

LTE is expected to be a fully ratified standard by the end of this year, with trials occurring in 2009 and deployments in late 2009 or 2010 offering mobile data rates of up to 170Mbps, says a telecom report by Frost and Sullivan Market Insight.

Experts say it is not yet clear whether it is LTE or WiMax that will be the dominant technology like GSM versus CDMA. “Which technology will flourish more will depend on the handset manufacturers,” said the IT consultant. “I believe in WiMax because it’s being applied in 19 countries while LTE has not been implemented yet.”

But the LTE, which is much newer than WiMax, is getting a lot of market incentives. Telecom companies like AT&T and Verizon earlier this year announced LTE deployment. Major market players such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, NEC, NextWave Wireless, Nokia, Nokia Siemens Networks and Sony Ericsson have joined hands to deal with various aspects of LTE. WiMax is also facing challenges from the popular Wi-Fi technology, which now has a 100-kilometre range.

WiMax handles a huge data transfer that the 3G technology cannot. This means, for an example, WiMax can deliver smooth digital television broadcast in mobile phone, which the 3G cannot.

IT and cellphone players worldwide believe that the future mobile phone market will be demanding a huge data transfer. Mobile phones will act as the communicator, video broadcaster, entertainer and provider of any other everyday services. Hence the debate: Should we choose WiMax or should we follow the GSM path?

GSM technology has made mobile phone cheap and popular and its domination in mobile market is clear. The popularity of GSM was caused by freedom of phone users to use any handset they like (or phone companies using a host of devices not necessarily manufactured by a single company), prompting competition and quality.

Developed internationally by the WiMax Forum, WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) provides broadband speed without the requirement of cables in 50-km area. WiMax technology in cellphones was standardised two years ago.

The top mobile WiMax players include SK Telecom and KT of Korea, BT and France Telecom of Europe, Sprint Nextel of US and KDDI of Japan.

Source: Daily Star

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