Despite alternatives, mobile WiMAX is here to stay

07 Dec 2006
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The mobile WiMAX blitz shows no sign of abating, with dozens of tech vendors showcasing equipment or announcing deployments at ITU TELECOM WORLD 2006, despite skepticism from critics who feel 3G technologies like HSDPA and EV-DO Rev A will steal its thunder before it gets off the ground.

Ericsson CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg - whose company has entered into a cooperation deal with WiMAX champion Intel - says that while fixed WiMAX 'has a clear role to play' in the wireless ecosystem of the future, mobile WiMAX's role isn't quite as assured.

'Mobile WiMAX is really just another radio technology,' he told the SHOW DAILY. 'The R&D and construction of equipment will not be cheaper, so it's not clear the economies of scale can be realized. We're not married to any technology, but we have to follow where the majority of the market will go, so we are not too attracted to WiMAX because it doesn't bring anything that's not already available.'

However, Samsung disagrees, having supplied equipment for Korean operators KT and SK telecom for their WiBro services, which are based on the same standard as mobile WiMAX.

'The WiMAX Forum has over 380 members, so it has a strong ecosystem, and it's an open standard technology with an open IPR, so

operators will benefit from the capex and opex savings,' says Dr Hwan Chung, VP of Samsung's mobile WiMAX marketing strategy group. He added that mobile WiMAX terminals will be cheaper than HSDPA terminals.

Chung also argued that there are a number of potential customers who would deploy mobile WiMAX, from greenfield operators and operators who don't have 3G licenses to cable TV companies. 'Next year we will see anywhere from ten to 20 operators deploy mobile WiMAX. Even Sprint, which already has EV-DO Rev A, is deploying it next year.'

Yossi Shabat, senior VP, international, for wireless broadband vendor SOMA Networks, sees developing markets as a major opportunity for mobile WiMAX - as a home-based service, ironically, either as DSL in-fill in urban markets or as connectivity for underserved rural areas.

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