Mobilink and Alcatel-Lucent announced today that they will be deploying a live network based on the Wimax-Rev-e standard in the major cities of Pakistan. According to the press release on the Alcatel website:
Based on the latest IEEE 802.16e-2005 standards (also called Rev-e), the new WiMAX network will be deployed in the 3.5 GHz spectrum enabling rapid implementation of broadband services available in fixed and nomadic environments. It will deliver high-speed internet access, enabling the delivery of advanced broadband multimedia services, such as video streaming, through a variety of end-user devices including laptops, desktop computers, modems and WiMAX terminals.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The deployment of WiMAX will enable our subsidiaries to complement their GSM offering with broadband services,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Tamer El Mahdi, CTO of Orascom Telecom Holding.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The introduction of WiMAX will help us address the needs of our corporate and residential subscribers in Pakistan who want the ability to access wireless broadband services everywhere and at anytime,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Marwan Hayek, CTO of Mobilink.
I would take this announcement with a grain of salt though — no news on when (and IF) this deployment will take place — does anyone remember Worldcall and a number of other ISPs (and Wateen for that matter) entering the Wimax market and becoming vapourware?
Here are some thoughts on the Wimax market in general…
The trouble with Wimax in Pakistan wouldn’t be so much the technology as much as it might be the orthodox distribution plans telecos consider when rolling these things out.
Wimax provides companies a way to disrupt the ISP / DSL market for consumers because they could easily provide much better speeds at much lower costs. Still, most of the telecos who have considered Wimax have always mentioned a rollout plan starting with corporate customers and slowly trickling into the masses.
This means both limited services (e.g. VPN and multi-site video conferencing solutions to corporate customers, rather than formally implementing 3G / triple-play services for consumers) and (2) usually it means no price advantage — even if prices *could* be drastically cheaper, hey why not reap the profits through corporate customers first.
This second point may seem great for business, but it demonstrates poor CSR. When Micronet DSL and Nayatel started their triple-play venture they had a similar opportunity to disrupt the market, but they didn’t.
They didn’t because of the same reason that many markets in Pakistan do not follow free-market rules in their entirety — when options for consumers are limited and regulation control is wishful, the few suppliers can always get together and decide on a price band with enormous margins and no one would know better. It is like when you go to buy memory for your laptop, and that computer shop guy says “Oh… there’s some supply issues, importing is difficult, hence prices are high.” Who can check this? Especially when everyone is singing the same tune?
So with Nayatel, instead of finding the chance to be inspired by newer, better, faster ways of working or living lives, all that happened was that people like me and other consumers alike had to bear with salesmen with inflated-egos presenting value propositions like “Well, yes it costs the same and is still limited to the same speed and same capacity… but its FIBRE!”
This sounds familiar to the “…but its MASTERCARD” argument presented by Credit Card salesmen…. are consumers in Pakistan really that gullible?
Coming back to Mobilink’s Wimax initiative, we have been hearing bits and pieces of this initiative for a year now, and I dont know how much closer a press release will bring them to actually “reshaping lives”