Tech will serve a niche market, says M-WAG
Recent trials of mobile WiMAX have been branded a success, but widespread adoption throughout the UK is unlikely, according to a member of the Mobile WiMAX Acceleration Group (M-WAG).
The UK’s first live end-to-end 2.5GHz Mobile WiMAX trials began in Maidstone, Kent last year and focused on four usage scenarios: public safety, CCTV monitoring, building inspection and workforce mobility.
The trails were not a test of the technology but an attempt to demonstrate the business case, Harry Aldridge, CEO of Bluenowhere, a member of M-WAG, told CBR.
Although the trials successfully demonstrated the business case for WiMAX, Aldridge believes a widespread consumer rollout across the UK is unlikely. Instead, he said, it will be used to serve a niche market in the enterprise and public sector spaces.
“The technology is mature, it’s ready but it will need a big mobile operator with deep pockets to back it,” he told CBR. “I think it’s much more likely that rather than one or two big operators there will be lots of smaller operators serving niche needs, such as the ones seen in the trial.”
Aldridge added that mobile operators are likely to shun WiMAX for long term evolution (LTE) for their 4G services. “Major mobile carriers are looking at LTE rather than WiWAX because it’s evolving out of what they already use, but it’s tied up with a lot of baggage,” he said, adding that the baggage included higher operating costs than WiMAX and the fact that it cannot be deployed from scratch as the technology is not yet ready.”
One of the mobile WiMAX trials involved a mock-up car accident at Kent Fire & Rescue Service’s training centre. Live video of the scene was streamed back to the headquarters, something the Service cannot do at the moment. They instead rely on audio contact for communication between the scene of the accident and the base.
“With a satellite connection you get latency issues, it’s expensive and can be cumbersome. You don’t get those issues with WiMAX. The use of this technology is also significant because of the proximity to the Channel Tunnel,” Aldridge said.
A trial was also conducted with mobile CCTV cameras with Maidstone Borough Council. The Council was operating mobile 3G cameras to supplement its fixed CCTV cameras. With costs running between £500 and £1,000 per year per camera, the council could not afford too many and workers often had to bid for use, Aldridge said.
“WiMAX cameras are significantly cheaper to run so the Council could afford to operate more. They can also save money by only operating the cameras when they need,” he said. “For example a mobile CCTV camera can be positioned outside a nightclub and only used when the club is open.”
Following the trials the next key event for WiMAX is the next spectrum auction, which is expected to take place in late 2010.