Gauteng Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  13 Aug 2010

CONNECTIVITY: WiMax to Win 4G Race in South Africa


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The prospect of next-generation, ultra-fast 4G services, and the race between Long Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMax to 4G have long occupied the minds of telecoms experts the world over. “While some believe that LTE is going to pip WiMax to the post, we maintain that LTE doesn't have the ecosystem that WiMax does and that for emerging markets, and South Africa in particular, WiMax is the leading solution.” So says Winston Smith, MD: Southern Africa at Alvarion, a worldwide leader in 4G WiMax and wireless communications.

WiMax is a low-risk, attractive opportunity, especially in a country like South Africa which lacks a fully-developed wired infrastructure, he continues. With a quick deployment time and suitability for fixed, nomadic and mobile deployments, it offers a fast and cost-effective solution for broadband connectivity in Africa. WiMax is also an ideal solution in a range of scenarios for different business cases and sizes of operations, from the two-base-station rural network to full multi-city coverage, it is capable of being the only connectivity solution or as a complementary option where DSL and 3G are also available.

“In South Africa, WiMax is really at its infancy. The deployments by Telkom, iBurst and Screamer are mainly niche and only offer fixed or nomadic connectivity at the moment. This is likely to change very soon as the industry regulator, ICASA, is currently in the process of defining the rules for a spectrum auction,” says Smith. Essentially, all existing ECNS licence holders – basically all the ISPs in the country – had until June 25 to submit their business plans together with their intention to partake in the auction.

ICASA will then determine , through a closed process, which parties have met its conditions and then move to an auction if more than four operators are left to be allocated spectrum in the 2.6GHz band.

“Right now, nobody knows what the timelines are after the 25 June submission date, but we hope an announcement will be made early in the second half of 2010 – bringing with it the likelihood of at least four new WiMax operators within this market,” he adds.

With a mere 3% broadband penetration in SA, this offers an opportunity for very rapid growth, especially with the recent deployment of the Seacom undersea cable and its associated reduction in bandwidth costs, Smith concludes.

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