Allen Nogee, an analyst at In-Stat, said it can cost up to US$10 billion to build cellular base stations for an entire national network in a country of average geographic size. "That's pretty expensive," he said in an interview.
Even if WiMax turns out to be cheaper than alternatives, it generally requires more cell towers per region than other wireless technologies, given the pecularities of the spectrum WiMax uses. "It's harder to get good coverage, and more base stations are needed," Nogee said.
In general, Nogee said it seems obvious that a new WiMax project might face financing problems, given the current economic slowdown. "It will certainly be hard to get funding," he said.
But Ron Resnick, president of the WiMax Forum, argued in a keynote address that governments, including leaders in India, are aware of the value of bringing WiMax to millions of people who want a broadband Internet connection, but don't have a wired infrastructure to get it easily.
Resnick ticked off a list of countries where operators have started networks, including in India and the Caribbean, and then quickly added subscribers, due to pent-up demand.
"Money is always an issue" with emerging technologies, added Mohamma Shakouri, vice president for the WiMax Forum, in an interview. But he said that outside of the US, especially, WiMax growth should be healthy. "The world economy is in better shape than here."