WiMax: Coming your way soon?

Research claims WiMax technology has a bright future, but BT says operators won't be able to offer it without joining forces with each other

US telecom operators are only 18 months away from offering local WiMax communications to their customers, according to research released on Monday.

The Meta Group says that falling costs and increased mobility will ensure WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) can be a viable communications option.

WiMax has the potential to reduce capital and operational expenses, improve customer satisfaction and allow service differentiation for carriers taking up the technology, according to the research.

There’s currently no standard protocol for WiMax. However Meta says that if the technology is incorporated into PDAs and notebooks then access costs per customer could drop to less than £40 by 2008.

WiMax could also lower operational costs by 41 percent by reducing the need for signal router points. Because WiMax can be broadcast over several miles it provides a broader coverage area than traditional broadband technologies.

WiMax's reach makes it attractive to rural country areas and BT is currently conducting trials of the technology in rural Northern Ireland. If UK WiMax services take off they will challenge existing cable and DSL broadband services, as they provide higher data rates at relatively low cost.

However, BT has said that the technology is unlikely to make much headway unless there is joint funding between different network operators.

“WiMax technology needs a partnership between large European organisations before its benefits are widely recognised,” said Ross Cook, a spokesman for BT.

“Broadband wireless trials have taken place in many parts of the UK but the trial in Ireland was the first to be done in connection with a public authority."

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