Pakistan plans largest mobile WiMax rollout

802.16e is getting more industry backing than the fixed flavour of WiMax, say analysts, as Motorola demonstrates third-party interoperability

Pakistan is to roll out the largest mobile WiMax network yet, Motorola announced on Tuesday.

Motorola is providing the country’s Wateen Telecom with an 802.16e-based MOTOwi4 network. An initial uptake of a million subscribers is expected, with a nationwide rollout to follow.

As a developing country, Pakistan has until now lacked the infrastructure for widespread broadband.

The deployment is a milestone in the spread of WiMax. The 802.16-2004 standard, which is used in fixed WiMax networks, is being skipped in favour of a large-scale rollout of 802.16e, which was only recently agreed upon by the WiMAX Forum.

"We made the decision 18 months ago to jump over [802.16-2004] and go straight to 802.16e," Paul Sergeant, Motorola’s marketing director for MOTOwi4, told ZDNet UK on Tuesday.  "We’ve been working on it for a while, which is how we’re able to ship so soon after agreement."

"802.16e leads to a much larger market as it addresses mobility needs, but we also felt it could be just as good a solution for fixed broadband."

Observers say the Pakistan deal is proof that major players in the industry are throwing their weight behind mobile WiMax in a way they haven't with the fixed version.
"The really interesting thing is that Motorola is really focusing on the mobile version, as are Alcatel and Siemens," Julien Grivolas, telecoms analyst at Ovum, told ZDNet UK on Tuesday.

"Mobile WiMax is going to be something for the big players, as opposed to fixed WiMax where [they] set up OEM agreements with smaller vendors."

On Tuesday, Motorola also made its first public demonstration of third-party interoperability of its WiMax products. At the WiMax World Europe conference in Vienna it showed off a third-party PCMCIA card that incorporates a mobile WiMax chip from Beceem Communications.

Sergeant told ZDNet UK: "The market is looking for carrier class [802.16e] solutions that either support mobility from the beginning or can be upgraded."