Tuesday, May 24, 2011

WiMAX: state of play in France

ARCEP has published a "report card" of the deployment of WiMAX in France. This radio technology that works between 3.4 and 3.6 GHz has long been seen as a potential 4G technology, but it is ultimately the evolution of mobile networks that will take that role. ARCEP started giving permissions in 2006 and currently (January 2011) there are 19 entities that have a license to work on this type of frequency.

There are 12 local authorities, mainly in locations where deploying conventional broadband networks is difficult, and 7 private companies. Currently, there are about 1,350 radio transmitters and (only) 21 000 customers and about 1,500 customers in businesses. The offers differ slightly, primarily because companies have higher needs as individuals, and prices are close to those of ADSL for home users.

Interestingly, ARCEP note that networks are less extensive than was anticipated when the award of licenses in 2006 and that 3G networks offer a similar rate (about 2 megabits / s in reception) with more coverage extensive than WiMax. In practice, WiMAX prose several problems. The first is linked to performance, depending on weather conditions (in part) and the distance between the base station and the user.

The advertised rates are quite low in practice and the promise of a connection "nomad" is futile: there are several variants of WiMAX (802.16d, 802.16e and 802.16m) and interoperability between operators is not always possible. Ultimately, WiMAX is expected to remain - such as satellite - confined to a very particular market, the "forgotten" to ADSL.

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