WiMAX and other new high-speed wireless technologies are likely to take market share from 3G as well as DSL. In a white paper research firm TelecomView says that WiMax will supplement and in some cases replace 3G, DSL and other wireline technologies to provide broadband services.
WiMAX offers high-speed wireless data connections over a range of around 30 miles. The technology features both increased range and download speeds compared to WiFi (802.11x), which is intended to provide coverage over small areas. Along with WiFi, other fixed-wireless broadband systems currently exist, including hardware that can deliver services over several miles. But many of these also require "line of sight" between a transmitter and receiver to function - WiMAX does not.
TelecomView estimates that WiMAX will capture more than 40 per cent of the wireless broadband market, leaving 3G with less than 60 per cent in 2009. In addition to stealing market share from 3G, the report suggests that WiMax will also be a threat to fixed-line high-speed broadband services.
"Our forecasts show that WiMAX will be the clear winner amongst the new high-speed wireless technologies," said Ian Cox, co-author of the report. "WiMAX will pick up 70 per cent of this new market segment by 2009 due to its higher performance and flexibility compared to the alternatives. 3G will be important for its mobility, but WiMAX will directly compete with DSL."
"We believe that WiMAX will pose a threat to fixed and mobile broadband access technologies because it is a single global standard, like DSL, and will bring with it huge economies of scale, particularly as Intel and others are supporting its use in mobile computing devices."
WiMAX is now available in proprietary formats only but a common standard is set to be ratified. Although 3G and DSL technologies are already live in most of Europe and therefore have something of a head start on WiMAX, many local industry players agree that the new technology poses a threat.
"It's important to say that 3G is live now both in Ireland and in most of Europe while WiMAX in its full-format won't be available for between 24-36 months," said Charlie Ardagh, director of Leap Broadband, one of a handful of companies in Ireland expected to be early WiMAX service providers. Irish Broadband, Clearwire and Digiweb are also looking carefully at WiMAX.
"Once the common standard is introduced we'll likely see a situation similar to that which occurred with the introduction of a WiFi standard in that there will be wide adoption," said Ardagh. "The introduction of a standard will result in cheaper kit being produced and this together with the fact that WiMAX has a far wider reach than 3G will make it increasingly popular. We also think that it will compete with DSL as the existing copper network has a limited reach."