The future Wimax leaders

Adlane Fellah, Maravedis
16 Apr 2009
00:00

Wimax is struggling to maintain momentum as the spearhead of a new generation of wireless networks more closely integrated with IT and networking. The demise of leading Wimax vendors such as Telsima and the exit from the market of Nortel, among others, have contributed to the bad press that Wimax has suffered in the last few months.

The Wimax Forum likes to proclaim there are over 400 operators deploying or trialing Wimax in the world. Size matters. In parallel, the LTE camp claims over 100 mobile operators are now committed to LTE, including many CDMA operators.

More than 1,700 license holders have spectrum in the Wimax bands worldwide. Among these, about 470 have 50 MHz or more, or enough spectrum to consider offering broadband service profitably in the long term. Among those with plenty of spectrum, how many enjoy pockets deep enough to sustain the capex and marketing investments required to become the meaningful 4G players of tomorrow‾ This is a hard question, one to which we do not have the complete answer.

We, however, can make a partial response based on our survey of 22 Wimax operators around the world that we feel will make or break Wimax over the next two years. Some 46% of operators interviewed have 50 MHz or more of spectrum while 45% have more than $100 million in cash.

Ones that will make the cut include obvious names such as Clearwire but also operators that currently enjoy a relatively small subscriber base but for which Maravedis believes there is great potential, such as Scartel (Russia). Other \'strategic\' operators include: UQ Communications (Japan), Far EasTone, BSNL and Telmex International.

Based on the operators\' projections and Maravedis\' estimates, we expect the top 22 players to contribute nearly 2.5 million subscribers by the end of the year - up from 1.24 million today - and close to four million by the end of 2010. A big share of these subscribers will come from large proprietary networks that are expected to convert to Wimax by 2010, such as Clearwire\'s in the US and Inukshuk\'s in Canada. Interestingly, 42% of these operators are considering or planning to deploy LTE.

CPE sales

Our findings reveal that most operators are already deploying double-play services (high-speed internet and VoIP), 25% are offering triple-play services (with video); and the remainder offer only high-speed internet. In addition, a significant number of operators are serving the business segment with VPN services. For these services the operators are generating an average ARPU of $35 for residential services and $93 for business services, with average downstream speeds of 256-512 kbps for residential users and 1-2 Mbps for the business segment.

Shipments of wireless broadband CPEs in 2008 increased 64% year-over-year to 3.6 million units. Wimax CPE shipments totaled 2.45 million units - three times more than in 2007. Shipments of both 802.16e-2005 and 802.16d-2004 CPEs rose.

Mobile Wimax equipment sales eventually are expected to largely displace fixed Wimax equipment sales. The hope for Wimax operators is to develop mass markets, and mobility is considered to be essential for mass-market acceptance.

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