This Week in WiMax

5:00 PM -- This week in WiMax, here's the big issue, as I see it:

Does your 4G strategy include an option for WiMax’s continued success?
Despite the efforts of the biggest carriers and biggest gear suppliers to talk boldly of a future based on Long Term Evolution (LTE), all the buzz and deliverables at this week’s CTIA show in Las Vegas belonged to WiMax and its primary boosters, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR). While the easy and safe analysis is to foresee an LTE future based primarily on the financial and market heft of its backers, it’s worthwhile to ask what happens if WiMax continues its success streak -- and if LTE stumbles out of the starting gate.

Despite Verizon Wireless 's continued confidence about its planned 2010 launch schedule of 25 to 30 markets, the company’s tentative public stance at CTIA -- mainly its reluctance to answer any detailed questions or provide any granularity about devices, plans, or markets -- was reflective of a firm that is still hoping for the best, rather than one that knows exactly when and how all the parts will fall into place. While it seems as if the company may feel fine about how it is getting backhaul and antennas in place, the unfinished nature of almost all the LTE end-user devices on display at CTIA makes it hard to see these things being finished in commercial form before 2010 becomes 2011. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), for one, is already publicly saying it doesn’t expect to see much in the way of attractive LTE devices until 2012. In the meantime, WiMax backers like Sprint and Clearwire will be shaking out the bugs on, not only the High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) EVO 4G, but more 4G phones and new devices expected to arrive during this calendar year. That’s a lot of time to run with the newest coolest devices and accompanying data and rate plans that the big telcos will be unlikely to match even when they do launch LTE. While even Sprint and Clearwire expect LTE to eventually grab the lion’s share of the 4G market -- and they might even move to LTE if it makes sense to do so in the future -- they’re also going to continue pushing WiMax as hard and as fast as they can until that time arrives. If your company’s strategy calls for mobile, high-speed wireless either from an end-user or developer/partner/device/ infrastructure standpoint, and you need to capitalize on it in the next year or so, it may be WiMax, and not LTE, that will answer your needs sooner. And maybe for longer than you think.

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— Paul Kapustka is the founder and editor of Sidecut Reports, a WiMax analysis site and research service. He can be reached at [email protected]. Special to Light Reading Mobile.

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