The Second Wave of Mobile WiMax

PC cards and base-station chipsets that support the Wave 2 mobile WiMax specifications are now starting to be unveiled by silicon vendors like Sequans Communications and Picochip (See PicoChip Intros Wave 2 WiMax.)

Here's why you should care, even if only a little:

Rollouts: Wave 2-compliant products will drive the rollout of mobile WiMax in the U.S. by Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) If this silicon had somehow been delayed, that would have been bad news for the third-ranked cellular operator in the U.S. (See Sprint Facing WiMax Delays?)

The Reston, Va.-based operator was rumored to be a driving force behind the WiMAX Forum 's Wave 2 specifications, which mandate chipsets that use "beamforming" and multi-antenna arrays to increase the data transfer rates and capacity offered over the network. (See CTIA: WiMax in the Air.)

CTIA: West Talks WiMax.)

Aside from smaller deployments by Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) and Towerstream Corp. (Nasdaq: TWER), the Sprint rollout will be the first real test of WiMax in the U.S. I have no doubt that many other vendors and operators will be watching the user numbers with intense interest.

Buyouts: The success -- or otherwise -- of Wave 2 will also likely affect the fortunes of many of the silicon startups working in this market. As far as I can tell, Beceem Communications Inc. , PicoChip, and Sequans are the three leading silicon surfers of the second wave. If the technology takes off, I expect one or probably more of these firms will see a happy exit, either through acquisition or IPO.

If the applications allowed by Wave 2 don't grab the public's fancy, however, then the entire WiMax edifice could come crumbling down.

Flameouts: Broadband research firm Maravedis claims there are nearly 1 million WiMax users around the world. Most of them, however, are still using pre-WiMax or fixed networks.

The first true mobile offering -- the WiBro networks in South Korea -- doesn't appear to have attracted many users yet. In fact, operators have struggled to sign on even a couple of thousand subscribers since the service was launched in 2006. Poor coverage and a lack of suitable handsets have been cited as reasons for the slow uptake. (See Samsung's New Support for WiBro.)

No doubt Sprint is keen to avoid any WiBro-like missteps.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

phillipwolfe 12/5/2012 | 3:07:48 PM
re: The Second Wave of Mobile WiMax Site Editor Dan Jones is prescient in his foreknowledge of things to be with WiMax 802.16(e) and (d). However, the data-centric inherent value of 802.16 (d, e) platform should not be soley evaluated from the consumer perspective. There will be a bevy of "enterprise-wide" applicatons that will provide a ready market WiMax enabled services; including services for the ever increasing mobile workforce. One can look at Intel for evidence. Intel recently announced plans for an entirely new WiMax/WiFi/CDMA multimode mobile chipset plaform called Montevina as a product extension of their Santa Rosa Centrion line of products. Why would Intel place such confidence in WiMax enabled platforms? Because it is in the bandwidth. The mobile workfoce and mobile consumers will demand a bigger IP wirless pipe. WiMax offers the bandwidth along with voice capabilities.

Already and Central European and Eastern European countries are installing WiMax networks. And Pakistan already completed and installed a system.

WiMax is here to stay. And the fact that Intel plans to invest money means everyone should understand the WiMax standards.


F. Lopez
IPobserver 12/5/2012 | 3:07:42 PM
re: The Second Wave of Mobile WiMax Enterprise mobility is about changing business processes as much as anything. And that means software development to mobilize applicationsGǪ most of which can be made to work well-enough over existing networks.

WiMax doesnGÇÖt particularly help with that aspect of things. If it can offer lower cost per month/user over a wide enough coverage area at "broadband speeds" that would be greatGǪ And then youGÇÖre into the HSPA vs WiMax debate all over again. :(

The 3G community hasn't had much luck getting HSPA or EV-DO embedded in corporate laptops so farGǪ but it's early days. Maybe Intel can help.
techgnochhi 12/5/2012 | 3:07:42 PM
re: The Second Wave of Mobile WiMax Dan Jones is correct in his foreknowledge (if such a thing exists) of WiMax in that it will be made or broken by the consumer space, just like mobile networks were made by the masses, not the enterprise. In the early days of mobile communications (i.e bag-phones), only enterprises were interested, and accordingly, networks were small and expensive. The real business case for mobile voice came about with the mass adoption of these services by consumers (care to review Verizon Wireless' customer segement numbers? Consumer vs. enterprise?)

So similarly, while I would not discount the usefulness of WiMax to the enterprise, it is not enterprise adoption that will drive the deployment and success of WiMax networks. It is mass-scale adoption of WiMax services in all kinds of platfroms that will make or break it. Because your argument that bandwidth alone and integration into "platforms" (which in the enterprise sense really means laptops) will make WiMax is flawed - HSDPA and DO stand ready today with sufficient BW and integration into laptop devices.

So you'll have to find a better explanation of why WiMax is here to stay than the "enterprise"

Mind you, Intel's WiFi Centrino only had to work on one freq: 2.4GHz. WiMax will have to work on 2.5,2.3,3.5,3.8,etc etc because there is no global WiMax spectrum. While Intel might "announce plans" for chipsets covering the whole spectrum, I remain doubtful that they will ever have a one-chip-fits all solution. If this were the case, QC, NOK, etc would be out of business.
borracho 12/5/2012 | 3:07:22 PM
re: The Second Wave of Mobile WiMax It seems that everyone is waiting to see what Intel will do or not do to decide on WiMAX. As for Intel's Montevina why the heck not add support for all the other wireless protocols, call it DreamWave and complete the smooth transition from a tier1 microprocessor vendor to a tier3 wireless IC vendor.

WiMAX is here to stay, as a paperware protocol in the WiWax museum.

wap545 12/5/2012 | 3:07:21 PM
re: The Second Wave of Mobile WiMax I have read 7 releases on the new Intel Montevina upgrade coming out in 2008 and in none did I see any reference to a CDMA product being included. They did indicate that the new Centrino platform would have a single WiFI 802.11n and a WiMAX radio. Intel has to much invested in the success of the WiMAX and WiFI platforms to even think about offering a Narrowband Cell solution.Would like to see where that info came from.
They might be working with Nokia to make a separate 3G device but these EV-DO and HSDPA systems will still only be delivering 700Kbps to 1Mbps max for the average user in any major market and even the FCC is looking to define Broadband as 2Mbps+.Cellular Data Networks are not Broadband.

IPobserver 12/5/2012 | 3:07:19 PM
re: The Second Wave of Mobile WiMax You should be able to run some great apps over a 700 kbit/s mobile link, especially if latency comes down (which it does with HSPA).

If you leave laptops aside, what mobile apps need more speed than this?

You might say video, but how long does the battery last on a handheld device running streaming video? Not long.

Without getting into the WiMax vs. 3G debate (which is fruitless), it's well worth considering what it takes to develop a successful mobile application.

Blackberry is a huge success on GPRS/EDGE. SMS is a huge success using the network control channel.

Mobile WiMax will depend on applications to be a success, no matter how fast/efficient it is.
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