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The Development of the WiMAX Industry in Emerging Markets and Taiwan
Dr. Ching-tarng Hsieh and Ms. Maggie Chao, Information & Communications Research Laboratories, Indu

I.           Introduction

Recently, WiMAX development has been in the spotlight and the WiMAX system has been adopted by developed countries. Korea Telecom was the first to unveil WiMAX services and it has become a wireless broadband operator that has over 200,000 users in Korea. In addition, Korea Telecom has served as an inspiration for the development of the WiMAX industry worldwide. This inspired Sprint to launch the first commercial XOHM WiMAX service in North America in October 2008, which had a positive outcome. These events have currently inspired, Japan's UQ COMMUNICATION to actively deploy the service and it is expected to roll out the WiMAX Service in mid-2009. Emerging markets, such as India, Brazil, and Russia, are regarded as the primary regions to develop WiMAX; therefore, this article focuses on the development and status of WiMAX in India, Russia, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia.

 

II.        WiMAX Development Status in Emerging Markets

Both fixed and mobile WiMAX services are very important for the improvement of WiMAX technology. For those developed countries or regions which lack telecommunications infrastructure, WiMAX technology can provide them with basic telecommunication and the wireless broadband services in a quick and affordable way. India announced the range and scope of its next-generation network and wireless broadband access service in August 2008; it will release more details of its range of services in the future. As for the Russian operators, they have not only strong capital support, but are also active in WiMAX deployment. In South America, Brazil is currently planning its wireless broadband access network; therefore, the WiMAX Forum offers Anatel, the regulator in Brazil, strategies and advice for network planning. Although the territory of the southeast Asia region is not big, it shows great eagerness to deploy the WiMAX system.

India

Emerging markets are regarded as the primary market for the WiMAX industry, specifically India, whose market is expected to grow significantly. Currently, the number of people using broadband in India is relatively low. There are only 4.5 million users out of a population of 120 million. Therefore, it is certainly a great opportunity for WiMAX operators to increase their coverage area. The WiMAX Forum predicts that there will be 27 million WiMAX users in India before 2012, which would account for 20% of the worldwide WiMAX market. Recently, the Indian government issued four licenses, valid for 15 years, and allocated the 20MHz bandwidth from the 2.3GHz-2.5GHz band to the Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) technology. This is the same technology used in Taiwan, the United States, Japan, Korea, Russia, and other countries. Even though the spectrum usage is still limited to TDD for now, permission for data communication has already been called off. Furthermore, the issuance of Indian licenses was completed before the end of 2008. They are expected to start operating in the first half of 2009. Since BSNL/MTNL is a state-run enterprise, there is no need to compete with other operators to get a license, but it would have to pay the licensing fee to the highest bidder. According to the rules, the bidder is supposed to reach a goal of 90% coverage rate in urban areas and 50% in remote areas within five years.

These days, Indian operators, such as Tata Communications, Reliance ADA, Aircel, Bharti, BSNL, Spectranet and Sify have already deployed a 802.16d fixed WiMAX network between 3.3GHz-3.4GHz. Some of them have already finished deployment in many cities. For example, BSNL has been deployed in 10 cities, Tata Communications was in four cities, but has since initiated services for 64 enterprises; however, it expects to deploy in four more cities and begin services for 51 more enterprises. Reliance opened in 10 cities from 2007 to 2008 while Aircel started in 30 cities and is planning to deploy in 35 more cities. As for Bharti, it activated service in 55 areas and is preparing to apply for expansion in 100 more service areas. As for the deployment of a 802.16e mobile WiMAX network, BSNL used 1,000 base stations to provide wireless online services for 6,400 rural villages before the end of March 2009. It is estimated to provide the services for 16,000 to 1,800 villages before the third quarter of 2009. Moreover, Tata completed work in 12 cities and provided services for 120 enterprises while MTNL started trial network services. Reliance expects to complete continued growth of the WiMAX network in at least 100 cities in 2010.

According to the data from the Indian government, the economic growth rate continues to rise 9% each year and mobile consumers continue to increase by roughly 8 million users each month. After the issuance of licenses for WiMAX network deployment, it is expected to bring large-scale business opportunities for purchasing WiMAX equipment and terminal products. Therefore, in order to meet the demand for certified products, the WiMAX Forum plans to establish the India Products Certification Laboratory. In addition to the Industrial Technology Research Institute in Taiwan and the University of Maryland in the United States, the WiMAX Forum is preparing to establish only the third WiMAX Application Laboratory in the world, which will be located at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi for the purpose to invent WiMAX applications just for the Indian market, such as distance learning, tele-medicine systems and e-government products.

Russia

Russia is one of the most important regions for promotion of the WiMAX industry. There are two bands: 2.49GHz-2.69GHz and 3.4GHz-3.6GHz which have been released to the WiMAX network. Synterra, Comstar, and Scartel as well as others use the 2.49GHz-2.69GHz band, which is currently designated for fixed and mobile wireless broadband network and will only be used for the mobile wireless network in the future, while the 3.4GHz-3.6GHz band is currently only used for fixed wireless broadband service. Enforta, Beeline, Skylink, Prestige and NEX3 all use this band to provide WiMAX network service; however, it will someday be released to mobile wireless broadband services.

Currently, there are several WiMAX network projects in progress. The largest Russian operator, Scartel, started to provide trial WiMAX services under the brand, Yota, for 2,000 people in Moscow and St. Petersburg for two months in September 2008. Furthermore, Scartel is expected to enhance the network with 1,000 base stations for 20 million users in these two cities, 600 base stations for Moscow and 400 for St. Petersburg, before the end of 2008. In addition, Scartel will provide the WiMAX network service for other main cities and expects the number of users to reach 500,000. Also, Scartel introduced Samsung's system, which includes a USB Modem, PCI Express module and terminal products for WiMAX and Wi-Fi, for customers' home use. All the equipment was provided by Samsung Korea and Asus in Taiwan. Users have been able to purchase these three kinds of personal home equipment in chain stores since November 2008.

Comstar, a company Intel has invested in, is another important telecommunications operator in Russia, which has provided trial network service using Alvarion's 13 base stations in Moscow. It estimates it will expand the service area with 160 base stations. Enforta, a professional operator who provides BWA and the WiMAX network service, announced it has completed deployment. As of August 2008, they have been providing wireless broadband service to 70% of the urban population in 68 cities and owns 15% of the wireless broadband service market in Russia.

 

Southeast Asia Region

In recent years, WiMAX development has been moving forward in Southeast Asia. Take Singapore, for example. Its main WiMAX service operator, Qmax, has finished network deployment for the whole island and extended the Wi-Fi signal to cover the areas the WiMAX service could not reach. Qmax only provides online services in urban areas and data communication for ships sailing along the island and around the Singapore straits area. It does not provide other WiMAX applications such as distance learning or tele-medicine systems,

 

The government of Bangladesh officially issued three licenses on September 24, 2008. Two of them were licenses for the 2.3GHz band while the other one was for the 2.5GHz band. Nine companies participated in the competitive bidding process. In the end, Bangla Lion Communications, BRAC Bdmail Network and Aguri Wireless Broadband Bangladesh were awarded the bids. According to the Bangladesh government's rules, the bidders must complete deployment for 90 base stations in the first year in addition to countrywide network coverage in three years. If the WiMAX operators who were granted the licenses can successfully begin operating before the end of 2009, the government estimates the number of online users may increase to as many as 10 million.

 

III.     The Current Status of Taiwan's WiMAX Development

To maintain its advantage in the WLAN industry, Taiwan's government chose WiMAX as the main technology for the next-generation wireless broadband industry in 2005. It was easier for Taiwanese operators to enter this market since WiMAX technology had not fully matured. In order to facilitate the WiMAX industry, the Committee of Communications Industry Development of the Ministry of Economic Affairs prepared different implementation strategies with establishment of a friendly, interactive relationship with the WiMAX Forum as. Dr. Ching-tarng Hsieh, who served as a representative, participated in the related meetings of the WiMAX Forum. Exchanging opinions with WiMAX Forum directors was a great opportunity to introduce Taiwan's WiMAX industry to the whole world. It not only successfully showcased the M-Taiwan project and the Taiwan WiMAX industry on the international stage, but it also turned the M-Taiwan project into a well-known Taiwan experience worldwide. WiMAX Vision magazine chose M-Taiwan for the cover of its February 2009 issue. As a result of this exposure, many regional operators contacted us wishing to discuss ways to work together. From its experience with Wi-Fi, Taiwan learned the importance of product development certification; therefore, starting in 2005, Taiwan made efforts to establish a certification laboratory in Taiwan. Finally, the WiMAX Forum separately authorized ADT in 2007 and TTC/CCS in 2008 to establish laboratories. The two laboratories have already started operations.  

Graphic 1 February 2009 cover of WiMAX Vision magazine 

WiMAX Vision 

Taiwan was riding the WiMAX wave during 2007. The Taipei Summit's choice of WiMAX as its topic combined with a WiMAX equipment exhibition, demonstrated the strength of Taiwan's WiMAX industry to international visitors in May. WiMax Forum President Ron Resnick, Vice President Mo Shakouri and other directors of the WiMAX Forum met in anticipation of the summit and declared the establishment of the WiMAX Forum Taiwan office. Dr. Ching-tarng Hsieh was appointed the director. The establishment of the Taiwan office has been helpful in the development of Taiwan's WiMAX industry. On the one hand, it has accelerated the communication between the WiMAX Forum and Taiwan operators and, on the other hand, Taiwan has obtained more assistance and support from the Forum.

Plugfest and a member conference took place in October, and the events were record-setting. First, Plugfest was the largest one held over the past years with participation from 220 engineers, 34 equipment manufacturers, and eight test equipment manufacturers. Second, the member conference had the most participants it ever had with roughly 700 members from 35 countries. Together with the WiMAX member conference, the "2007 WiMAX Forum Taipei Showcase and Conference," supervised by Committee of Communications Industry Development of the MOEA, shared the trends and experiences of WiMAX industry development. In order to provide domestic and overseas applications operators the opportunity to test and develop the newest WiMAX applications and services, the WiMAX Forum announced the establishment of the first M-Taiwan WiMAX Applications Lab (MTWAL) in the world. Together with VMAX Telecom, MTWAL has deployed six base stations which cover the area from the Industrial Technology Research Institute to the Hsin-Chu System Interchange on the Sun Yat-sen highway.

In order to maintain interest in WiMAX development and WiMAX network deployment and operation, Taiwan once again collaborated with the WiMAX Forum and invited 54 operators from 22 countries to participate in the WiMAX Forum Operator Summit in June 2008. They discussed earning profit potential from WiMAX services, facilitating WiMAX ecosystem development, and enriching WiMAX applications and equipment. At the same time, in order to attract the attention of overseas WiMAX operators and allow them to witness the complete Taiwan WiMAX ecosystem on their own, they arranged to visit the WiMAX Expo to show the participants the growth and variety of WiMAX products over the last year.

After Taiwan's issuance of three licenses for broadband radio access in July 2007, Tatung InfoComm inaugurated the operation and introduction of WiMAX service in Kaohsiung the following year. After receiving investment by Intel, VMAX Telecom selected a base station vendor and evaluated the cooperation for customer home equipment. In addition, VMAX Telecom completed deployment for commercial services in the first quarter of 2009. As for the other four operators, they have started to deploy base stations and select vendors. Their services are estimated to begin operating in the second half of 2009.

 

IV.     Conclusion

Due to continuing government support, the development of the WiMAX industry has been in the spotlight and highly commended around the world. Although, there have been some domestic and overseas media reports which have shown concern about WiMAX technology, domestic WiMAX operators have continued to receive orders. Global WiMAX deployment has continued moving on its path. Moreover, according to statistics from the WiMAX Forum, there are over 1,700 WiMAX license holders from 140 countries worldwide, and over 407 deployment of the WiMAX network.The WiMAX Forum predicts there will be 538 WiMAX operators in over 200 countries and 130 millions WiMAX network users in 2012. WiMAX technology is an inevitable trend for Taiwan's wireless telecommunication industry and a great opportunity to become one of the most important technologies for broadband radio access. The development of the global WiMAX industry is worth the anticipation as we will exceed the world's expectations.

 

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