WiMax: The Landscape Unfolds

1:45 PM -- I just returned from three really busy days at WiMax World. Suffice it to say, this event was the big coming-out party for WiMax -- suppliers, carriers, fixed, mobile, everything. The WiMAX Forum is to be congratulated for creating concise messaging, promoting the technology everywhere, and for building a comprehensive and pervasive engine for moving everything WiMax forward. Momentum, yeah -- they got that. It is difficult at a conference with a single focus to really see the context in which said single focus operates. And yet that was the question I heard the most during my time at the event: How does WiMax fit into the big wireless picture? That’s neither simple nor easy, but here goes:

WiMax is a metro-area wireless technology. It will work best in licensed bands, and it will usually be deployed in larger -- radius of two KM or so -- cells. As such, it competes with cellular data, but WiMax most certainly has the technological lead here at present. Future versions of EV-DO (Revs B and C) will be very competitive with WiMax, but they’re a ways off. Similarly, UMTS evolves into LTE (long-term evolution), but that, too, takes a while. My guess is that WiMax has at least a three-year lead over both at present.

But there are other competitors -- certainly metro-scale WiFi, possibly (and I think likely) Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)’s Flarion, and perhaps the now-being-reconstituted Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 802.20. I was very impressed, however, with the fervor and maturity of many of the vendors and products I saw at the show, and I’ll have more for you on all of this as soon as I plow through the huge stack of mail (postal and electronic) I’ve ignored for the past three days.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the WiMax World Advisory Board. I have no financial interest, as I noted before, in any of the conference organizers, sponsors, attendees, exhibitors, etc. But it’s been a lot of fun working on the conference for the past three years, and I’m looking forward to more.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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