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2 | June 2008
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Broadband goes mobile
C
onsumers are warming to mobile broadband. Voda- inevitably deteriorate. An HSPA capacity crunch in some
fone, a useful barometer of the global mobile data cells would present an opportunity for the more spectrally ef-
market given its large footprint, reported more than a 40 fi cient and data-centric WiMAX networks to shine brighter.
percent rise in data revenue to £2.2bn ($4.3bn) during the Th is scenario is not as unlikely as it may fi rst appear. In the
12 months ended 31 March 2008. Growth was driven by UK alone, HSPA USB dongles are fl ying off the shelves at the
USB modem sales and fl at-rate pricing. More than two rate of more than 50,000 a month.
million customers across eight countries signed up for Going forward, gaining a head start on service innova-
Vodafone’s fl at-rate mobile Internet access packages during tion via an open IP platform may well turn out to be the
its 2007/08 fi scal year. WiMAX trump card. Google’s $500m commitment to the
Th is is good news for WiMAX. ‘new’ Clearwire JV is an added bonus in this area, opening
Cellular data growth of this kind, even the door to faster application development and the building
though it comes from a relatively small of business models based on mobile Internet advertising.
base (entire 2007/08 revenue for the As mobile WiMAX rollout ramps up in the US and
Vodafone Group was £35.5bn/$70bn), elsewhere, speculation will be replaced by observation
shows there is a thirst among consum- as to how well the technology fares in delivering mobile,
ers for mobile Internet and high-speed nomadic and fi xed broadband services. It is a critical time
data. It validates the market that for the WiMAX community.
WiMAX operators—particularly in Th e good thing is that tier one cellular operators, such
developed economies—are targeting. as Vodafone, have allocated huge amount of resources in
Th e big question is how will trying to kick-start the mobile broadband market. And by
WiMAX operators be able to diff erenti- fi nally gaining some mobile data traction, they may have
ate themselves from 3G operators? Th ere are many answers done the WiMAX camp a favour. Th ey have whetted con-
to this, some of which are explored in our WiMAX gets sumers’ appetite for something that WiMAX was designed
disruptive feature (page 30), but a signifi cantly better mobile to deliver from the outset—the mobile Internet.
Internet experience—combined with competitive and in-
novative pricing—will probably be key to begin with.
Th ere may also be an argument that cellular operators will
become victims of their HSPA dongle success. As their net-
works (designed primarily for voice) carry more and more Ken Wieland
data traffi c and become congested, network performance will Editor, WiMAX Vision
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SOLUTIONS
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