This Week in WiMax

12:45 PM -- This week in WiMax, here are the big issues, as I see them:

Though devices missed one predicted mark in 2009, at least one industry exec sees them proliferating for WiMax in 2010
While WiMax services seemed to experience a true breakout year in 2009, the expected matching debut of numerous WiMax-enabled devices failed to materialize, leaving proponents with just a handful of assorted modems and routers, and still waiting for the promise of an open network platform to catch on with device manufacturers.

Early in the year, then-Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff somewhat famously predicted that 100 WiMax devices would be available for his company's network by the end of 2009. Instead, Clearwire in particular and WiMax providers in general currently can only offer their customers a small selection of home or mobile modems, a fairly decent selection of laptops with WiMax embedded inside, a few portable Pocketspot WiFi/WiMax routers, and one in-between handheld device -- the Samsung Mondi -- which hasn't attracted any significant interest since its launch back in August.

No matter how creatively you count all those, it's nowhere near 100 devices -- and perhaps a bit troubling from the perspective of whether or not device makers believe that WiMax is worth working on. But according to Bruce Brda, Motorola senior VP and GM for Moto's Home & Networks mobility group, the lag is somewhat to be expected, especially since WiMax is such a new technology.

"It's easier to build network stuff than devices," Brda said in a recent phone conversation, explaining the asynchronous development path. "With a device, you don't have the ability to touch them or upgrade them -- they have to be right the first time out the door."

During 2010, Brda expects to see "a more complete set of devices, enabled with WiMax," as service providers and device makers alike become more comfortable with the technology and its intended audiences. Even though that means that Moto may lose some of its early market-share lead in the WiMax end-user device arena, the expanding pie is a good thing, Brda said.

"I think in Q1 [of 2010] you'll see a fair number of competitors emerge on the CPE side," Brda said. "Things are becoming more mature, and that's good for the [WiMax] ecosystem."

Housekeeping note: Sidecut Reports is taking a holiday break for the next two weeks, but we'll be back in 2010 starting with coverage from CES, where we expect a fair amount of WiMax news. See you then!

Need to know more about Clearwire and WiMax? Our second version of the "Clearwire NTK" report, which covers Clearwire events from June through September, costs less than a large beer at the local Sprint Nascar race. Just $4.95 at the Sidecut store. Also available for the Kindle. Available now for free download is our "WiMax Business Deployment Guide."

— 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 Unstrung.

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