Australian wireless Internet provider Unwired will struggle to meet initial cost projections for the rollout of its WiMAX network.
Originally budgeted to cost $200 million for a roll out into most Australian cities, it is now expected to cost 10 or 15 per cent more due to the global financial crisis.
Almost five years in the making, the commercial rollout of WiMAX has been delayed several times already, and the latest struggles will only give ammunition to its detractors.
Unwired first announced its intention to deliver a WiMAX network back in 2005. The plan was to convert current Sydney and Melbourne networks to the WiMAX standard, then roll out the service to most of the other capital cities. Unwired currently uses a proprietary fixed wireless system on the 3.5GHz band.
In late August 2005, Unwired signed an agreement with Intel to accelerate the adoption of WiMAX in Australia. Intel invested $37 million in Unwired.
Unfortunately, both Unwired and Intel expected the majority of notebooks to be shipping with built-in WiMAX by 2007, in the same way that almost all laptops include Wi-Fi chipsets. That hasn't happened.
Instead, many notebooks are now shipping with 3G capabilities — wireless broadband (usually HSDPA) through carriers like Vodafone and Optus. Additionally, Telstra's Next G network covers 98 per cent of the Australian population — far more than any of its rivals and certainly more than Unwired's proposed WiMAX network.
Unwired has recently confirmed that it will use Huawei and Motorola as suppliers of WiMAX equipment, but it's been surprisingly quiet on all other fronts.
I hope that we do get to see WiMAX. Theoretically, this technology has the potential to provide speeds of up to 70 megabits per second (Mbps). In the current market, it can't come quick enough.
They say good things come to those who wait. We can only hope this applies to WiMAX.