"Wimax evolved from the same people who brought you Wi-Fi," Jude said. "[It is] essentially a … single channel, time-multiplexed signal going back and forth, which makes it really great if what you're trying to do is achieve a fairly wide coverage in a fairly rural area because a signal like that tends to bounce around corners. You can establish maybe not the most capable connection, but the connection most suitable for that dynamic."
Although there are some hints that smaller US operators will treat LTE and Wimax as complementary technologies, various analysts said they did not expect AT&T and Verizon to suddenly offer Wimax service.
"I don't see that because the focus for those two carriers has always been supporting mobility … and a dongle starts looking more like fixed wireless because it doesn't have to do the handoffs," Jude said.
Smaller operators in the States may use Wimax to support specific wireless applications, such as smart grid or M2M, but "it's not necessarily a role the mobile operators [will be] talking about front and center," Webb said. Others will continue to use it for fixed mobile broadband to deliver residential Internet access, he said.
Sprint Nextel may be the only major US operator to support LTE and Wimax as complementary technologies. The operator recently announced its "Network Vision" plan, a major overhaul that would decommission its legacy iDEN infrastructure and make its base stations multimodal,
"That was by design in the program -- to leave those options open to us," said Bob Azzi, senior vice president of networks at Sprint. "We are looking at what they're doing -- KDDI and UQ in Japan -- and I think it's very interesting to see … and we're probably the only ones [in the United States] who could viably consider that type of strategy."