It always seemed likely that WiMax wireless technology would make its first impact in developing countries, where broadband access is scarce or nonexistent. The theory will be tested in Pakistan, which last week signed up Motorola to deploy what looks like the world's largest network based on mobile WiMax.
Wateen Telecom, the major carrier in Pakistan, tapped Motorola to plan, design, and deploy the nationwide wireless broadband network as part of the country's Broadband Pakistan effort to get Internet access to under-served areas. The company expects to support more than 1 million users, and Motorola's initial deployment should be completed by year's end.
The project's an emerging tech gamble on several levels. WiMax promises greater breadth and speed than Wi-Fi, but it hasn't been tested on this scale. And this project involves mobile WiMax, based on Motorola equipment using the recently finalized 802.16e standard. Most of the limited WiMax efforts so far used fixed WiMax, where users need to stay close to a large receiver.
Mobile WiMax lets Wateen offer a variety of mobile voice and data services that people can access while walking or riding in cars. But it also ramps up the technology risk. Anyone interested in mobile technology is going to have their eyes on Pakistan over the coming months.