EDEN ESTOPACE: BETTING ON WiMAX
MANILA, March 30, 2006 (STAR) By Eden Estopace - The view from
technology’s looking glass is quite clear: the continuing march
to faster, wireless connections is not about to slow down any
moment. In fact, 3G has barely warmed in our tech vocabulary and
a newer, complementary technology is now in the horizon,
promising to surpass what third-generation networks offer.
The upcoming buzzword is WiMAX or Worldwide Interoperability for
Microwave Access, a new set of standards that provides broadband
connectivity to wireless networks.
Alcatel Philippines Inc. president Herve Pourcines explained in
a lunch interview that WiMAX "is broadband communi-cations
becoming wireless while 3G is wireless trying to go broadband."
In other words, 3G can run short of expectations for more
advanced services despite its promise of high-speed data
connection on mobile devices.
"WiMAX offers typically a throughput of 22 Mbps (megabits per
second) per cell, which is around two to four times more
powerful than 3G with HSDPA for the same spectrum width and
provides a much better bandwidth at the edge of the cell,"
He said WiMAX is expected to become the primary choice over 3G
or Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) for many telecom operators
worldwide looking at boosting their broadband services.
Because of WiMAX, Pourcines said many applications that were
once only available through wired broadband networks or
high-bandwidth satellite Internet could now be delivered
wirelessly, including enterprise-level business applications
such as Corporate Mobility Manager (VoIP, Virtual PBx, VPN) and
video and audio conferencing.
Pourcines was quick to point out, though, that WiMAX is not a
competitor to 3G but rather a complementary technology.
"The higher capacity of WiMAX would make services like wireless
Internet access, video and music streaming, online video gaming
and mobile TV faster and a more enjoyable experience. 3G remains
attractive for voice services due to its high voice efficiency
and low voice cost," he said.
On March 26, 2004, a strategic alliance was forged between
Alcatel and Intel for the definition, standardization,
development, integration and the marketing of WiMAX end-to-end
Alcatel and Intel are now working with Innove Communications in
a WiMAX technology trial that started in late 2005. This is
aimed at assessing the capabilities of pre-Certified WiMAX and
802.16-2004 solutions to validate potential business cases and
fine-tune activities for large-scale deployments in the coming
"One of WiMAX’s other main advantages is that it is today the
only fully IP native wireless access technology and that it
could re-use existing 2G/3G sites in urban areas. Its potential
coverage is about one to two kilometers in dense urban areas and
15 to 30 kilometers in rural areas," Pourcines said.
Typically, WiMAX uses mainly the 2.5 or 3.5 GHz bandwidths.
Tomorrow, WiMAX will be available at 700 MHz and this will allow
it to cover even wider areas and thus make it the cheapest
broadband access for voice plus data communications services for
underserved rural areas in the Philippines.
Pourcines predicts that "WiMAX could be a major building stone
in the country’s effort to bridge the digital divide and enrich
significantly the lives and opportunities of those Filipinos
living in underserved regions."
Loosely defined, broadband is high-speed transmission of data
via cable or dedicated service line (DSL).
While fixed-line broadband is now the norm globally for Internet
access versus dial-up connection, wireless broadband is fast
catching up, Wi-Fi being at the forefront, at least locally.
However, WiMAX is upping the ante as it will make possible
bandwidth-hungry applications that will surely make tech nomads
As it is now, Alcatel is the world leader in broadband
technology and Pourcines is saying that wireless broadband
through WiMAX is fast going into the mainstream.
"The future is really broadband and will become a basic
necessity like electricity, water or gas," he said.
In the United States, he said many city governments are
investing in broadband facilities for faster, more efficient
delivery of social services.
The key driver for this trend, he said, is falling revenues for
voice calls, once the bread and butter of telecom firms. In
2005, Pourcines said calls made over Voice over Internet
Protocol (VoIP) represented only seven percent of calls for
France Telecom. In the first quarter of 2006, VoIP calls shot up
to 40 percent of all calls made.
Telecom operators are really looking for alternatives to boost
average per user revenue (ARPU) and they are seriously looking
at the possibilities of broadband to deliver a different set of
voice, video and data services to its customers.
To achieve this, Alcatel believes that significant investments
are needed "to enable broadband in the network infrastructure
and to reform the fabric of the information systems that
ultimately control the user experience."
One big challenge, though, is how to turn this into a mass
market technology. And one of the solutions is for the industry
to be able to provide a wide range of handsets that will suit
all types of applications and, in the case of the Philippines,
There is no doubt that everyone will benefit from broadband but
how telecom operators will be able to deliver this on mobile
gadgets while keeping the cost down is the true hurdle.
Alcatel assures, though, that based on its study, a return on
investment is guaranteed inferior to five years but an internal
rate of return will be greater than 70 percent after 10 years.