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

wap545 12/5/2012 | 3:37:38 AM
re: WiMax: The Landscape Unfolds Good synopsis of the show I just attended.

Craig also provide an excellent 1st day overview of the Broadband Wireless markets (covering most all Wireless technologies)in a fair and equitable way-if not a little (rightly so) skewed towards WiFi as the most economical solution for true Broadband links today.

As a US based service provider it very apparent that we need a means of integrating the ubiquitous WiFi networks (mainly 802.11a/g access and Mesh) with the new feature sets provided by the Chip vendors for the 802.16e Mobile WiMAX.

Please note 2 things:
1. I said WiMAX feature sets provided by Chip vendors like Wavesat, who are not hesitating to provide the likes of a Trango with a new WiMAX chip they can deploy in the Unlicensed spectrum offering SP like me a means of:
2. Delivering WiMAX like features/services to my market where no WiMAX approved Licensed spectrum is available. Unless of course you are Sprint, Clearwire or Bell South who own the approved 2.5GHz Licensed spectrum.
The only negative I took away from the show is the focus totally on the Sprint and Clearwire services being planned and the big vendors supporting them: Intel/Motorola/Samsung. There was minimal discussion on alternatives to these Licensed deployments in the US.

WiMAX narrow focus on the International 3.5GHz and US based 2.5 Ghz spectrum has precluded the majority of Service Providers in this country, whether a Telco, CLEC, WISP or whatever from competing with the big boys mentioned above.

Some Near term Options for US Providers
1. The Teaming of Trango (Radio vendor) and Wavesat (WiMAX Chip maker)will allow us to move ahead with WiMAX like deployments in the 900MHz spectrum initially and near term in the 2.4 & 5 GHz spectrums, avoding the big up front cost of Licensed Spectrum while delivering most WiMAX features in our markets.
2. Using Airspans new radio being developed to address the new FCC 3.65GHz semi private registered Licensed spectrum for WiMAX like capabilities (not approved by the Forum).
In short what we really want from WiMAX is the powerful feature sets they offer, and we need to decide is: are we comfortable using these without the security of a Licensed spectrum or the new powerful radios ????
What will be the overiding factor here is our ability to deploy high quality broadband services costs effectively and add value to our existing Wireless Metro Area Networks.

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