ROUNDTABLE: Wimax to benefit from stimulus plans

The global economic slump is driving government interest in Wimax as they look for ways to fuel growth and at the same time boost their communications infrastructure.

Sean Maloney from Intel told a roundtable on the Wimax ecosystem in Barcelona that over the past couple of months he's seen increased momentum from governments from around the world.

"If you look at the amount of money governments are putting together for economic reconstruction around the world, some $3.5 trillion, what better way than to build the communications infrastructure for the next ten years," he said. "I now see a broad consensus from governments emerging."

Alvarion CEO Tzvika Friedman agrees, noting that research shows that investing in education and connecting people to knowledge can drive growth and many countries are looking at this growth path.

The comments were made at a roundtable, moderated by Caroline Gabriel from Rethink Research, with representatives from eight of the top Wimax equipment suppliers.

After going into production last year, Maloney sees enormous opportunity in the next 12 to 18 months to drive down costs, increase availability of devices and start to make an impact on the growing digital divide.

Motorola's Fred Wright anticipates a "great business for all of us" and said an immediate challenge is to get the price of the CPE below $100 this year to drive growth in emerging markets. The company shipped 6,000 access points last year.

With today's economic conditions, ZTE GM head of Wimax Sean Cai is seeing more demand from a number of areas for fixed Wimax than in the past, when the focus was more on the mobile version. There has been strong demand from Asia as well as the Middle East and Africa.

Wright sees the same, with the majority of interest in fixed and nomadic services. He noted that doesn't mean they don't have a vision for full mobility, but the business economics aren't there today. "They're starting out with a basic business model to develop a customer base."

He said that because of the similarities of the technologies, Motorola is leveraging much more development to support both [Wimax and LTE] tracks and use common platforms "to get more mileage of our development budget."

"There is a lot of pressure on us to do everything we can to help operators reduce capex and opex, and another area we have to focus on is providing financing and some sort of creative financing."

Alcatel-Lucent's VP for Wimax, Karim El Naggar, expects co-existence between the different technologies, noting that Wimax is available today for fixed-line and greenfield operators, but expects mobility to be a key differentiator.

Maloney noted that the industry now understands that Wimax gave a huge push to LTE, but he feels LTE is now a distraction for the Wimax industry. "All the conditions are right for Wimax, and we shouldn't get distracted and need to push ahead."

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