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2007 Global Wireless Broadband - Focus Shifts to Mobile Sector

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Last updated: 11 Sep 2007 Update History

Report Status: Archived

Report Pages: 146

Analyst: Stephen McNamara

Publication Overview

This report provides detailed information and analysis on worldwide wireless broadband developments including regional information for North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific. Included is detailed information on WiMAX and analysis of its potential in both the fixed and wireless sectors, taking into account competing technologies, such as HSPA. Statistics and forecasts for WiFi and WiMAX are also provided, along with information on the progress of the wireless networking technologies of Bluetooth and UWB.

Subjects covered include:

  • WiMAX;
  • WiFi/WLANs;
  • Bluetooth & Ultra-Wideband (UWB);
  • Mobile Data analysis;
  • HSDPA & IP Multimedia systems (IMS);
  • 3G analysis;
  • Regional Overview including North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia and the Pacific region.

Executive Summary

The focus of wireless broadband, and in particular WiMAX has now shifted towards the area of mobility, although there will still be some opportunities in the fixed broadband markets. WiMAX is well suited to the mobile sector as the future of wireless/mobile rests very much with ‘personal broadband’ - where broadband is delivered to individual personal devices which are enabled for mobility.

In terms of developments, after years of waiting, the WiMAX standard was finally ratified in late 2005 and by early 2006 the first certified products entered the market. However, it will not be until 2009 that more commercial viable services will become available. In the fixed broadband market, niche opportunities will reside in metropolitan areas where WiMAX can deliver premium broadband services. WiMAX may also be of use in some regional markets where it is uneconomical to use fixed networks. In the developing markets such as China and India, WiMAX will certainly be able to tap into the fixed broadband market, simply because there are no fixed networks available at all. For more information, see chapter 2.3, page 21.

It is however becoming more and more apparent that wireless broadband is much better suited for the delivery of mobile data and this infrastructure also has better potential for the delivery of VoIP. These are two reasons why wireless broadband could start challenging 3G in the next decade. 3G is obsolete in terms of being able to deliver a business model that offers affordable mass market wireless broadband services – and all roads will eventually lead to IP based 4G. Both WiMAX and 3G HSPA (the latter one through the LTE technology) can be used to move towards 4G, somewhere around 2012. For more information, see chapter 1, page 1.

While WiMAX is still trying to get a foothold in the market, the mobile operators are moving forward and employing HSPA for 3G networks; the latest addition in the long list of mobile data technologies. While the capabilities are impressive, the high user charges of the services on offer are inhibiting its business potential. Interestingly however, under the pressure of capped mobile prices there is a significant increase in data traffic both over 2G and 3G networks, indicating that the key to mobile data and wireless broadband is ‘communications’, rather than portals or PSMS. Under these newly emerging business models users are mainly using these services for email and Internet access. For more information, see chapter5.2, page 61.

Meshed wireless broadband services for city centres and major suburbs are also being developed, and together with WiMAX, WiFi is set to continue to play a key role. Hotspots can be easily connected to create a mesh-network and we are also beginning to see WiMAX technologies being used for the backbone, making WiFi more and more independent of incumbent networks. Some interesting developments are certainly happening in the USA along these lines (funded by advertising). These networks could put further pressure both on fixed broadband and mobile networks to increase their network speeds at more affordable prices. For more information, see chapter 3.1, page 27.

While Bluetooth arguably predates WiFi, it has been the latter technology that has monopolised the limelight in recent years, while Bluetooth has ended up with an image of never having been able to deliver on its promises. Nevertheless Bluetooth has, in the meantime, become seamlessly integrated into billions of products; in 2007 it is estimated that the number of Bluetooth device users has passed the 1 billion mark. In this process the technology has become more of an enabling technique than a stand-alone development. However the technologies of Bluetooth/UWB conceptually, at least, will have a strong influence of future developments of WiMAX. For more information, see chapter 4, page 43.

This report provides detailed information and analysis on worldwide wireless broadband developments including regional information for North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific. Included is detailed information on WiMAX and analysis of its potential in both the fixed and wireless sectors, taking into account competing technologies, such as HSPA. Statistics and forecasts for WiFi and WiMAX are also provided, along with information on the progress of the wireless networking technologies of Bluetooth and UWB.

Key Highlights:

  • The first certified WiMAX products are now entering the market and if WiMAX proves able to deliver, BuddeComm predicts a wireless revolution between 2008 and 2010.
  • We predict that by 2015 close to 100% of mobile revenues will come from wireless broadband.

Global wireless broadband market subscribers - 2003 - 2008

Year Wireless broadband* Satellite broadband
  Subscribers (millions)
2003 1 1
2004 1.5 2
2005 4 4
2006 7.5 6
2007 (e) 15 9
2008 (e) 27 13
(Source: BuddeComm 2007)
Note: *Table excludes 3G

  • There are now over 100 HSPA networks commercially launched in over 50 countries around the world, including Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, North and South America, and Asia-Pacific. For more information, see chapter5.2.1, page 61.
  • The US and Europe are currently home to the majority of WiFi hotspots; however growth is predicted ahead in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly for China. While the number of hotspots may be growing, concerns exist regarding the actual usage of these hotspots, particularly by the general public.
  • In the US, 3G deployments are soon to be overshadowed by the nationwide WiMAX networks planned by Sprint Nextel in partnership with Clearwire. The partnership aims to provide coverage to approximately 185 million people in Sprint Nextel’s footprint and 100 million in Clearwire’s with roaming between the two networks. For more information, see chapter 6.1, page 82.
  • Wireless solutions are ideal for Latin America, as they avoid the need to lay cables in regions of rugged landscapes and remote rural communities. Also, the lower costs involved in deploying fixed-wireless broadband systems has enabled smaller competitors to enter the market. For more information, see chapter 6.2, page 83.
  • Malaysia’s regulator awarded the country’s first WiMAX licences to four ‘non-telco’ companies in early 2007. For more information, see chapter 6.5.11, page 119.

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