WiMax offers inroad to mobile broadband

A Huawei executive says WiMax presents a better way over HSPA for smaller operators to make their entry into the mobile broadband market.

WiMax may offer fixed and smaller operators a better chance to enter the mobile broadband market over HSPA (high-speed packet access), said a Huawei executive at this week's WiMax Forum Congress Asia 2008.

Tang Xin Hong, vice president for Huawei's CDMA and WiMax product lines, said in an interview with ZDNet Asia that WiMax may present a way for fixed-line operators that do not have extensive cellular networks or 3G licences to get into the mobile broadband game.

For smaller operators, WiMax allows them to "start small" too, by deploying base stations incrementally--an operator could start with a smaller area of coverage, increasing coverage with more base stations as revenue rolls in, explained Tang.

Deploying HSPA over a cellular network would require a far larger initial investment to blanket the entire network, Tang said.

But Tang qualified that he does not quite see HSPA and WiMax as competing technologies, but rather, complementary because they can make up for each other's weaknesses.

For one, said Tang, HSPA offers broader coverage compared to WiMax, because it operates on a lower frequency band and therefore can stretch across longer distances.

However, WiMax's higher frequency band affords it a higher throughput too, so it has a higher transfer capacity for applications such as video streaming which require more reliable and faster service, said Tang.

Even though WiMax is theoretically able to transmit data over a long distance of some 50 kilometers, the bit error rate increases the further the distance the signal is broadcast, and thus needs to operate at a shorter distance to be effective.

Tang identified Asia as the biggest market for WiMax, due to the high population and low mobile broadband penetration here, compared to that of North America and Europe.

He said both developed and developing markets are hotbeds for WiMax: developed markets that already have high fixed-line broadband subscription rates will embrace the mobility WiMax affords; developing markets are likely to adopt the technology as a viable way to access the Internet both at home and while on the go.