Analyst: WiMax opportunity stifled in Australia

Despite plenty of growth opportunity in Asia-Pacific, Australia prefers other standards, Frost & Sullivan report claims

A new Frost & Sullivan report is predicting WiMax will remain a limited and niche technology in Australia.

The Asia Pacific WiMax Opportunity study claimed the Asia-Pacific region will have as many as 43 million WiMax subscribers by the end of 2013 and generate revenues of $US11 billion at a compound annual growth rate of 45 per cent from 2007-2013.

However, Australia is expected to make up just two per cent of that WiMax subscriber base.

Frost & Sullivan senior industry analyst, Marc Einstein, attributed low local uptake projections to two major factors - lack of industry support and speed.

"The cancellation of the OPEL subsidy by the government, and the improvement of the quality and uptake of the Telstra broadband network will relegate WiMax technology to a niche project," Einstein said.

The OPEL fallout would have a broader negative for Internet development in Australia, he said.

"Despite progress made in broadband in Australia, speeds are still lower than elsewhere in Asia-Pacific," Einstein said.

He highlighted emerging Asian nations as some of the highest growth opportunities for WiMax because of its ability to provide data and connectivity at speeds of up to 1Mbps.

"Australia and New Zealand tend to behave like Europe in regards to broadband. Some Asian markets don't have 3G at all, and when it comes it will be limited to the big cities," Einstein said. "Additionally, Japan and South Korea are the real pioneers of WiMax and will improve uptake by embedding chipsets in objects such as cameras and games consoles."

Telstra and Optus were expected to trial rival LTE (long-term evolution) technology over the next 3-5 years in Australia, he said, and with vendors such as Motorola throwing support behind the standard, the current advantage WiMax has having certified products in the market would not last.

However, Einstein pointed out WiMax's greater coverage potential compared to rival technologies like 3G could make it a better option for rural areas.

Despite the OPEL fallout, a number of companies have thrown weight behind WiMax in Australia. Sprint and Clearwire alliance have announced plans to rollout a national WiMax network, while Telarus and wireless broadband provider, Clever Communications, announced a national WiMax service partnership earlier this month.

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