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WiMAX Forum predicts user surge

The WiMAX Forum predicts there will be 133 million WiMAX users by 2012 with Asia expected to grab the lion’s share (45 percent).

“Analysts are saying that LTE will only have around 20 million subscribers by that time [2012], so we have a clear lead,” Ron Resnick, president of the WiMAX Forum, told WiMAX Vision at the WiMAX Forum Global Congress event in Amsterdam. WiMAX users are expected to outnumber WiMAX subscriptions as the fixed WiMAX model is similar to that of fixed broadband today where there are multiple business and consumer user per each CPE subscription. However, WiMAX for mobile use will be more single-user focused. So, as mobile and portable subscriptions become an increasing part of the subscriber mix, the average number of users per subscriptions will fall.

Although the WiMAX user growth rates are high, nearly doubling every year, WiMAX user penetration levels-in relation to regional population-still remain in single digits by the end of the forecast period. WiMAX user penetration ranges from 6.5 percent in North America to between 1.25 percent and 2.34 percent in Asia-Pacific, Africa/Middle East and the Americas by 2012.

Given that WCDMA penetration levels at the end of 2007 were also in the single digits in different regions around the world, and fixed broadband penetration is less than two percent in Africa and under 3.5 percent in Asia-Pacific, the WiMAX Forum argues that its user forecasts are realistic. At the end of 2007 there were 181 WiMAX operators globally, a number which the WiMAX Forum expects to increase to 538 by 2012. The number of countries with WiMAX is predicted to rise from 94 (out of a total of 234 countries) at the end of 2007 to 201 in 2012.

There are a number of assumptions behind the forecasts. One assumption is that governments, around the world, recognize that broadband internet is vital for economic growth. As such, many countries will likely adopt WiMAX to foster rapid economic development. And because the technology is available now, they will adopt WiMAX rather than wait for alternative technologies, which won’t be available for three or more years.

The forecast also assumes that, particularly in developing areas, there are shortcomings in today’s competing technologies. For example, wireline technologies are slow and costly to roll out and that cellular technology is often too costly to use and does not deliver true broadband speeds and does not scale up to the capacity of an all-IP media-centric network. As such, this explains the projected aggressive WiMAX growth taking place in Brazil, China, India, and Russia, as well as the Americas, Middle East/ Africa, Eastern Europe and developing Asia Pacific.

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