I wrote last time about how various service providers are waiting for Sprintâ€™s launch of mobile WiMAX. This launch is affecting decision timeframe of many other providers exploring WiMAX. There is no doubt about that. Even some of the fixed WiMAX projects seem to be on hold, playing the wait and watch game. But they are surely not watching Sprint only.
In fact if we look at the WiMAX services today, the landscape is dominated by emerging markets. There are around 100 countries among the emerging markets where broadband penetration rate is under 5%. These countries are seriously looking at WiMAX as the alternative. They include Saudi Arabia, Paraguay, Brazil, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Pakistan, Indonesia etc. Looking at the market requirements of these countries, WIMAX is going to be a multi billion dollar game. BSNL in India has announced that it will spend around $1 billion on WIMAX in coming years.
Sprint is not the only provider that has budgeted over a billion for WIMAX. VSNL (India), Optus (Australia), NTT DoCoMo (Japan) and Chunghwa Telecom (Taiwan) have all set aside a billion or over for WIMAX. These projects amount to expected investments of nearly $10-$15 billion till 2012 in these countries.
Another issue I would like to highlight here is that the primary aim of all WIMAX projects in emerging markets is to speed up the process of broadbanding the countries. Contrary to this, in the US and Europe, WiMAX would be used mainly for value added services. So the operators there have to put in some extra efforts to start generating revenues particularly in view of the fact that consumers in these countries donâ€™t have WiMAX compatible laptops and other handhelds ready.
In the emerging markets WiMAX will be used for broadband IP access and it wonâ€™t be used for any high end application or something new. It will rather provide Internet services to those people who are otherwise deprived of this facility. So operators in these countries donâ€™t need to create market for a new service as they see some level of pull from the end market itself.