Too early for WiBro?

Yes, but equipment has since matured, notes an analyst from Informa Telecoms and Media, referring to South Korea's launch of its mobile WiMax in the middle of 2006.

South Korea's commercial launch of the nascent WiBro, commonly referred to as mobile WiMax, in June last year was a premature move, according to an analyst from Informa Telecoms and Media.

Speaking to ZDNet Asia Tuesday on the sidelines of the WiMax Asia 2007 conference held in Singapore, Mike Roberts, a UK-based principal analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media, said: "When they deployed [ WiBro commercially in South Korea] in mid-2006, it was very early and a lot of people thought the equipment wasn't quite ready."

As a result, Roberts noted, operators did not widely deploy the technology and were unable to get many subscribers. One year on though, the WiBro equipment has "changed a lot", he said.

Based on the IEEE 802.16 standard, WiBro is a wireless broadband technology that was developed by the South Korean telecoms industry and capable of providing continuous wireless broadband connection even at traveling speeds of up to 120 kilometers per hour.

"Now, the equipment is more ready but it's still very early days," he added. "It's a brand new technology, so we expect to see all the same challenges you would see with any new technology."

Roberts noted there will certainly be teething problems such as deployment issues, for anyone who is looking to deploy WiMax, which he described as "a very advanced technology" where there are no prior success stories or case studies to learn from. He added that vendors and operators alike will have to work through all the issues.

"A lot of times, people can forget that with these new technologies…when they actually arrive, you will face major deployment challenges," he said. "[For example], does it actually work? Does handover work? Does it deliver what it says it delivers?"

Roberts noted that it usually takes six to 12 months to really get the technology to a robust state and deliver the benefits that it is touted to offer.

But not all markets in the region will take to mobile WiMax. Roberts explained: "You may have some emerging markets [which] are more interested in basic broadband access, and so, they may not necessarily need to pay for all the advanced features that you would get with a pre-4G system."

As such, he said, these markets may instead be able to proceed with a deployment based on the IEEE 802.16d standard, also known as fixed WiMax. "In fact, we're seeing deployments of that in India and elsewhere," he added.

"It really does depend on the particular market and even particular operators," Roberts said. "We find that the 802.16d, [available on] fixed WiMax equipment, can be cheaper at the moment simply because it doesn't have all the advanced antenna systems and all that on it."

"So, if an operator is looking for equipment only for fixed services, they may want to look at 802.16d [equipment]," he added.

Across Asia, some countries have also leapfrogged 802.16d to adopt mobile WiMax. Earlier this year, Pakistan's Wateen Telecom rolled out its WiMax network based on the 802.16e standard across 17 major cities in the country. In addition, Bangladesh's Agni Systems launched a phased deployment of its mobile WiMax network in its capital Dhaka, in December 2006. This initiative will be gradually rolled out to other of its metropolitan cities.