Lack Of PCs Will Thwart WiMax In Developing Nations

Cellular systems will upstage WiMax in developing countries, said market research firm Analysys in a report released this week.

December 7, 2006

2 Min Read
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While industrialized nations are enamored with the potential of WiMax, the wireless wide-area broadband technology faces a major hurdle for its success in developing countries: WiMax usage generally requires a PC, and third world countries lack sufficient numbers of PCs.

As a result, cellular systems will upstage WiMax in developing countries, said market research firm Analysys in a report released at this week's ITU Telecom World 2006 show in Hong Kong.

For instance, PC penetration in Bulgaria is 6% and less than 2% in India. As a result, the low PC numbers will hamper WiMax deployment, the market research firm said. The low cost of cell phones will help the spread of mobile phone networks in developing countries, where citizens have low disposable incomes.

"Cellular voice services will be much more appealing to most people, particularly as handsets are available very cheaply," said Mark Heath, the co-author of the report.

At the same time, cellular service providers are aggressively deploying mobile phone infrastructures in developing markets. Analysys cited mobile penetration that rose from 9% to 24% in Pakistan in the past few months.The situation is different in industrialized nations, where the rollout of WiMax is already well underway. For example, more than 75% of U.S. citizens have access to a PC.

One company hedging its bets with 3G and WiMax is Sprint, which is the only major mobile phone service provider that has committed to WiMax. Sprint says it will spend $3 billion on the technology in the United States, and it has some powerful partners in the effort in Motorola, Samsung, and WiMax technology pioneer Intel.

The WiMax Forum wants to make WiMax so inexpensive that one day it'll be a commonplace technology in most electronic devices.

"When Intel starts rolling out its Wi-Fi/WiMax chip, WiMax only adds $5 to the cost of Wi-Fi," WiMax Forum VP of marketing Mohammad Shakouri told the Reuters news service at the Hong Kong event. "The pricing of components will be reasonable. We'll try to push for very low cost devices."

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