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WiMAX Not Cheap Or Easy, Carriers Say
LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Sometimes hailed as telecom's next conquering hero, the technology known as WiMAX was deemed too expensive and too complex for immediate widespread deployment, according to carriers who have WiMAX trials underway.
At a panel discussion Tuesday at the USTA Telecom '05 show here, a panel of WiMAX equipment suppliers and telephone service providers debated whether or not carriers would "take the leap" and implement WiMAX, a broadband wireless technology that offers the promise of being a "third pipe" to compete with cable modems and DSL.
Their verdict? Someday, maybe, but not right now, since equipment costs, spectrum issues and implementation procedures make it tough to offer WiMAX services at a competitive price point. "It's going to take some time before WiMAX is a real competitor," said Aamir Hussain, director of engineering at Qwest, which has extensive WiMAX trials underway.
To really become attractive to carriers, WiMAX needs to have customer-premise equipment in the sub-$100 range, Hussain said. While such equipment is currently priced in the $500-600 range, Hussain said emerging standards and economies of scale should push the prices down rapidly, reaching the below-$100 mark by the end of 2007. Equipment for carriers is equally costly, in the $2,500-$5,000 range per terminal, Hussain said. But those prices should to drop below $1,000 per terminal in a few years, he predicted.
Almost all the panelists agreed that WiMAX would survive as part of a mix of access technologies. Mick Reeve, group technology officer for British Telecom, claimed that CTOs of most major carriers already have WiMAX trials underway, and that the first iterations of WiMAX -- which only support "fixed" or stationary end-user points -- will likely be marketed as DSL replacement services, offering "realistic" service of between 1 Mbps and 2 Mbps of bandwidth.
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