Samsung Breathes Life Into Euro WiMax Market

Samsung Corp. has reminded Europe's Long Term Evolution (LTE)-obsessed mobile broadband market that WiMax isn't yet a spent technology, with news of two deals to supply 802.16e infrastructure for national network rollouts in Eastern Europe.

In Ukraine, wireless broadband service provider Intellecom LLC is to deploy Samsung's U-RAS Smart CP base stations in the country's four main cities, including Kiev and Kharkiv, by June 2011. The operator plans to roll out its network throughout Ukraine, which has a population of about 45 million and about 20 million households, by 2013. (See Intellecom Deploys Samsung WiMax Gear.)

Samsung notes that the base stations support a migration to WiMax 2 (802.16m) and TD-LTE, the alternative technology that can operate on the same spectrum as WiMax. Intellecom is licensed to operate in the 2.3GHz and 2.4GHz bands. (See Samsung Targets WiMax 2 in 2011.)

Intellecom, which will be competing with rival WiMax player Ukraine High Technologies (Freshtel) as well as the country's main 3G mobile operators -- Utel, MTS Ukraine (NYSE: MBT), and Kyivstar GSM -- currently offers fixed wireless broadband services in 24 cities, charging 150 Ukrainian Hryvnia (US$18.95) per month for its "up to 20-Mbit/s" service. (See ZTE Wins Ukraine WiMax Deal.)

In Bulgaria, Max Telecom , which holds a license to provide services in the 3.5GHz band, is upgrading its existing WiMax network with Samsung's U-RAS Smart base stations, and plans to expand its network nationwide by 2012 to cover the country's 7.6 million population (2.9 million households). (See Max Telecom Picks Samsung and Bulgaria Rolls Out WiMax.)

Max Telecom, which offers fixed as well as wireless services, plans to offer downlink speeds of up to 32 Mbit/s and use its new network to offer "high-quality VoIP" services. It competes directly with rival Bulgarian WiMax operators TransTelecom and Nexcom Bulgaria LLC . (See Huawei Wins WiMax Deal.)

According to a recent Pyramid Research report, "Bulgaria: Fixed and Mobile Broadband Prospects Start to Rise," WiMax subscriber numbers in the country are set to rise from about 60,000 this year to around 190,000 by 2015.

Earlier this year, Pyramid analysts noted that because of its relatively low broadband penetration rate (just 15 percent at the end of 2009), Bulgaria is viewed as an extremely fertile market for new broadband access technologies such as WiMax. (See Eastern Europe Set for Broadband Surge.)

Samsung's new deals show there's still room for WiMax to play a role in Europe's broadband market, notes Heavy Reading senior analyst Patrick Donegan.

"This is a timely reminder that, whilst WiMax was never going to be a '3G killer' or anything daft like that, it’s still a great technology for low-cost broadband services, particularly in emerging markets as well as for vertical applications," says Donegan. "And for fixed broadband rollouts, the WiMax ecosystem is still a long way ahead of both HSPA and LTE in terms of the volume and variety of fixed end-user terminals that are available."

The news comes as Samsung, which says it has 57 mobile WiMax customers worldwide, is tipped to land a significant WiMax technology deal in India. (See Rumor: India Coup for WiMax Camp .)

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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