OECD forecasts rocky future for WiMAX

15 Mar 2006

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the spread of WiMAX technology faces a host of regulatory, security and spectrum problems. In a recently released report it said that ‘despite all the excitement over WiMAX, the ultimate role of WiMAX in the wireless market is debatable.’ Manufacturing giant Intel has been quoted recently as describing WiMAX as a technology that has the potential to upset the business models of both mobile phone firms and wireline-based service providers, but the OECD takes a more cautious line, citing the early promise of wireless in the local loop (WiLL) technology that was touted as sounding the death knell for traditional telephone operators. The OECD report stresses that access to the radio spectrum that WiMAX relies on is not universal, with some countries reserving certain frequencies, or restricting how they can be used. Moreover, mobile operators have incurred great expense to roll out 3G networks and the prospect of starting all over again with WiMAX technology is not widely appealing, with cellcos more likely to upgrade existing networks with technologies such as High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA). Although WiMAX’s range makes it potentially complementary to Wi-Fi, the OECD noted, this may also pose increased security risks, as it increases the area over which eavesdroppers may operate. Nonetheless, the OECD also said that WiMAX could play a key role in providing connectivity in rural and remote areas currently poorly served by wireless broadband and where it is too expensive to run cables or upgrade exchanges to support ADSL.