CommunicAsia 2010: Intel Still Bullish on WiMax
Speaking in a conference session here in Singapore, Ramprakash Alluri, business development director, South Asia, at Intel's Wireless Program Office, says the WiMax ecosystem -- around 588 service providers, more than 20 infrastructure suppliers, and about 90 device/client developers globally -- is strong, stable, and growing.
He claimed that WiMax is offering better wireless data performance than 3G in many markets, including Japan, for lower monthly fees, and that further technology developments, including the availability of enhanced 802.16e (additional MIMO antennae, improved modulation and fractional frequency re-use) later this year, and 802.16m (or WiMax 2) in 2012 or 2013, will further strengthen the technology's appeal. (See WiMax vs. LTE: The Rematch.)
Some vendors are even predicting 2011 availability for WiMax 2, which, as it will conform to the ITU's requirements for IMT-Advanced specifications, will be a proper 4G technology. (See Samsung Targets WiMax 2 in 2011.)
And without doubt there are some significant WiMax deployments in major markets today, including Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) in the US (and Spain), Yota in Russia, Packet One Networks (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd. (P1) in Malaysia, and UQ Communications Inc. in Japan, which aims to have half of the Japanese population covered by its services this year. (See Clearwire Extends WiMax Coverage, SK Telecom Takes Stake in WiMax Operator, Clearwire Promises WiMax Smartphones , UQ Expands WiMax With NEC, Clearwire's 'Jazzed' About Results, Clearwire Launches on the Costa del Sol, Yota: A Model WiMax Startup?, and One.Tel Rents Lines Cheap.)
And it's no surprise that Intel, which has pumped billions of dollars into the development and promotion of WiMax, is still singing its praises and talking up the long-term potential of a technology that is still in its relative infancy.
But there is undoubted pressure on the WiMax sector from LTE's supporters, led by China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL), which is keen to see TD-LTE deployed around the world so that it's not left as the only major carrier sourcing that flavor of LTE from the vendor community. (See Clearwire Paves Way for LTE in US and ZTE, China Mobile Test TD-LTE.)
And, lately, China Mobile will have been cheered by developments, with Russia's Yota announcing LTE rollout plans, and a commitment to LTE deployments by two of the main broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum auction winners in India, Infotel Broadband and Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM). (See Yota: WiMax + LTE for Russia and LTE Watch: Yota Drops WiMax for LTE.)
But Intel's Alluri denies that this amounts to any sort of trend for operators to favor LTE in the long run, and says each of those instances is because of "unique" situations in terms of the type or amount of spectrum held by the operators. "Yota is still a poster child for WiMax," he says.
Besides, Alluri notes that LTE is not a robust, mature technology today, while WiMax is broadly available and ready to deploy. "There will be other [broadband wireless] technologies in a few years, and they will have to go through the same pain as WiMax, especially with interoperability. It's not easy. LTE maybe have proof of concept, but can anyone deliver 30,000 base stations next year? In three years, maybe, but today it is only WiMax."
In India, where Alluri is based, he says the auction winners are being awarded enough spectrum to be able to choose from multiple technologies, but that many operators around the world do not have that luxury, and need WiMax to operate. (See India's Billion-Dollar LTE Question and India's BWA Auction Ends in $8.2B Drama.)
Intel's support for WiMax in India did not go as far as joining in the BWA auction, though. India's WiMax community was hoping the chip firm, which has billions of dollars at its disposal, would step up to compete with Qualcomm, which participated with a very clear TD-LTE agenda. (See India's WiMax Camp Wants Intel's Support and Qualcomm Unveils LTE Plans for India.)
However, Alluri tells Light Reading that the company might have participated two years earlier, but the economic downturn and the amount of money Intel is investing in Clearwire put the India auction beyond its reach. (See Clearwire's $1.5B Top-Up Confirmed and Sprint, Clearwire Create $14.5B WiMax Giant.)
— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading