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OECD sees uncertain future for WiMax

The race for wireless broadband access still wide open
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

In a wide-ranging report published this week, the OECD has outlined some of the factors that could define the success or otherwise of WiMax wireless networking.

The report's primary finding was that WiMax depends critically on spectrum allocation, a process which is still incomplete worldwide. "Despite all the excitement over WiMax, the ultimate role of WiMax in the wireless market is debatable," it said.

The report also cited concerns about competition from existing network operators, who it said are more likely to upgrade their 3G investments with HSDPA than roll out an entirely new network.

Several mobile operators have recently announced plans to deploy HSDPA in the UK, including Vodafone, T-Mobile and 3.

However, the OECD also said that WiMax could play a key role in providing connectivity in areas currently poorly served by wireless broadband.

Other issues causing concern include the uncertainty about standards for mobile WiMax, the regulatory environment for connecting networks to the phone system, and the possibilities that operators may block ports rather than lose mobile phone revenue to voice over IP. If that doesn't happen, the report said, then WiMax may be useful if built into mobile phones.

Although WiMax's range makes it potentially complementary to Wi-Fi, the OECD noted, this may also pose more security risks, as it increases the area over which eavesdroppers may operate.

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