It’s important to understand that WiMAX is a new technology being deployed in countries all over the world. Governments across the globe increasingly operate with the understanding that deploying wireless networks are a part of expanding national infrastructure. Buiding a WiMAX network is the 21st century equivalent of building the roads, railways, and ports of yesteryear. Additionally, there is the added expectation of populations of access to the internet being a fundamental human right.

Each country that deploys a WiMAX network faces different hurdles and obstacles. It is important to remember that a country like Russia building a network spanning 11 time zones and a small country like Fiji are at relatively the same point in their experience rolling out such networks.

It is not just a matter of geography and terrain, there are also other issues of dedicating specific ranges in the broadcast spectrum and working out arrangements with existing providers, especially to coordinate building of new infrastructure.

For instance, a July 2007 article from Malaysia describes how the Government has had to step in with incentives to encourage service providers to act collectively in laying out the infrastructure for new wireless networks:

According to the news agency Bernama, if the companies decide to share their infrastructure, the minister also offered financial assistance from the ministry’s universal service fund. The minister added that “If the companies decide to go on their own, they will have to roll out the cost of the towers themselves.” The impetus for suggesting a shared infrastructure comes from the ministry’s dissatisfaction over the roll-out of 3G services in Malaysia. The minister said that after two years, not all of the 3G towers that were planned for construction had been completed.

The dissatisfaction with the slow speed of construction of towers forced the relevant ministry in Malaysia to jump into action.

In Russia, service provider Synterra has had to devise unique solutions to help deploy a national WiMAX infrastructure over such a large geographic area.

Their aim is to utilize partnerships with local service providers in towns with populations larger than 100,000. They are deploying over 1,000 such networks at an estimated cost of US $29,000 each.

These examples are intended to show how deploying a WiMAX network in Fiji will require understanding and cooperation between the relevant stakeholders. It will require a unique public-private partnership, where Government will have to step in with incentives to ensure the rapid deployment of a network that has wide coverage.

To make this a reality for Fiji, both policymakers to service providers will have to think seriously about the importance of universal internet access to the future of Fiji.

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