Wi-MAX impact dampened by licensing delays in South Africa

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Delays in the awarding of licences for providing the new WiMAX high-speed wireless broadband service to businesses and consumers has resulted in dampening of its potential impact. This is the core conclusion of the first study on the impact of the technology in South Africa, conducted by World Wide Worx.

The report, WiMAX in SA 2008: Year Zero, released Tuesday, 4 March 2008 says that those companies that have already deployed are all using Telkom's scaled-down version of WiMAX, which is provided only where its ADSL fixed line service is not available, and only at ADSL-type speeds. Wi-MAX can theoretically offer speeds of up to 70Mbps, as opposed to ADSL's fastest option in South Africa of 4Mbps. Even at far lower speeds, however, the potential offered by Wi-MAX is not yet on the horizon, since no serious competition exists to spur its roll-out, says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx.

The Wi-MAX in SA 2008 study reveals that a mere 8% of corporations had adopted Wi-MAX options as part of their connectivity mix in 2007. However, they did not use Wi-MAX as a preferred or only form of connectivity, but deployed it where no other options were available, such as in rural areas or areas with rough terrain that made fixed line connectivity impossible or uneconomical.

A number of factors, such as lower cost, smaller base stations and easier deployment, mean that WiMAX is an ideal solution for providing broadband data and even telephone services to rural and remote areas. It is also seen as a powerful technology for bringing affordable yet quality Internet access to isolated communities. In addition, it is regarded as an ideal technology for connecting corporate networks at high speed, and it is already playing a small role in this regard.

Projections for 2008 indicate a significant increase in WiMAX deployment, with 20% of corporations deploying it as an element of their connectivity solutions. Once again, it is not yet a primary form of connectivity, but rather being deployed where fixed line and digital line options are not available.

The WiMAX in South Africa 2008 study comprised face-to-face interviews with network and IT decision-makers in 100 South African corporations. A summary of the results will be available at www.theworx.biz.

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