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Mobile WiMAX road filled with hurdles

Posted: 27 Oct 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile WiMAX  mobile technology  LTE  GSM evolution 

Although proponents of mobile WiMAX are positioning it as the best pick for a next generation network technology, IMS Research believes that it will struggle to gain traction with operators, and will ultimately remain a niche mobile technology.

Many in the WiMAX community however are quick to emphasise the time-to-market advantage that 802.16e has over LTE. While it is true that mobile WiMAX networks already have subscribers logging on to 802.16e networks around the world, and LTE networks are still at least three years away from commercial deployment, this time-to-market advantage will not tip the scales in favour of mobile WiMAX. Network operators are just now beginning to see a return on their 3G investments as increasing numbers of consumers take advantage of mobile data plans.

The fact that LTE won't be ready for another two to three years may actually turn out to be an advantage for LTE as the timeframe will allow mobile operators to get as much life as possible out of their existing 3G networks. Incremental upgrades to enhanced 3G technologies such as HSPA+ and EV-DO Rev B will allow for almost the same data rates as the initial LTE deployments. This will effectively set the stage for large scale LTE commercial rollouts in 3-4 years.

While it is certain that both standards will achieve some level of success, the road to mass adoption for mobile WiMAX will certainly be more challenging than that of LTE. This is further evidenced by the fact that the 3GPP has already tabbed LTE as the 4G standard for the GSM evolution path and the fact that the majority of cellular networks around the world are GSM does not bode well for mobile WiMAX supporters. This lack of wide-spread adoption will leave little incentive for mobile device manufacturers to develop products that support mobile WiMAX applications.

According to IMS Research Analyst Bob Perez, "The truth is that WiMAX is a very robust technology that has been quite successful in many parts of the world as a fixed broadband solution and will continue to do so, especially in underserved markets." He continued by saying that, "although mobile WiMAX networks are already going live thanks to Sprint/Clearwire and Korea Telecom the prospect of additional mobile WiMAX networks from Tier 1 operators are looking pretty grim."

The market for both fixed and mobile WiMAX is examined in detail in the new IMS Research report, "The Worldwide Market for WiMAX & Competing Products – 2008 Edition".

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