But analysts warn that growth could be cut in half if the Chinese government chooses to block local WiMax development.
The ability of WiMax to provide data and voice services in outlying areas without huge infrastructure investment gives it great promise in the rapidly developing region, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan.
Forecasts of 43 million customers imply revenues of almost $11bn a year for local operators.
Broadband internet connectivity is growing in Asia, but more than 96 per cent of the region's population (almost 3.7 billion people) does not yet have access to broadband.
This represents a huge potential market for high-speed data access technologies such as WiMax.
"In such a diverse market the business models for WiMax will depend largely on service level uptake, as operators in emerging markets will focus on enterprise users before catering to the mass market," said Frost & Sullivan senior industry analyst Marc Einstein.
"Transition markets such as Malaysia's will focus on the underserved pockets in urban areas, while operators in markets such as Japan and South Korea will drive new business models by embedding WiMax chipsets in a wide range of devices including cameras and game consoles to pioneer WiMax-enabled mobile devices."
However, Einstein warned that the Chinese government could severely hinder WiMax development in the region if it continues to delay the rollout as it has done with 3G mobile services.
If the government smiles on WiMax, the country could account for as many as 45 per cent of the region's subscribers by 2013, Frost & Sullivan predicts.
China key to $11bn Asia WiMax bonanza
By Simon Burns on Jun 7, 2008 11:42AM