Intel: We won't blink on Wimax

16 Jul 2009

LTE looks set to dominate 4G, but Wimax's biggest supporter, Intel, says it's not backing away from the wireless broadband standard.

With most of the world's cellcos committed to LTE, critics argue that Wimax is a niche player in the 4G story that will never achieve the scale of GSM.

'The answer is not in the technology, but the business model and the economies of scale, and Wimax simply cannot compare to the scales that HSPA has already achieved and will build on with LTE,' said Alan Hadden, president of the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) said at CommunicAsia last month.

But Garth Collier, Intel's Asia/Japan MD for Wimax, said the chip leader doesn't expect the world to go fully Wimax, but it will have its place, and Intel will continue to champion it.

'We're pragmatic about this, of course, but this directive is from the CEO: we're not blinking on Wimax,' said Collier.

Collier added that Wimax has had its trial by fire over the last few years with standards and rollouts. 'A lot of that has been doing what LTE's going to be doing as well - sorting out standards, testing, network trials and deployments. We've gone through that learning curve.'

ABI Research VP Jake Saunders said Wimax still has a strong pitch to make, especially with greenfield players that would otherwise never get a 3G license.

'They've still got about a two-year window to build up a sustainable business case,' he said, though he added that devices will be crucial to that equation.

However, while Wimax and LTE sport technical similarities on the radio access through OFDMA, they're less likely to come together soon in the core network.

Asked if the industry might see structural separation for Wimax and LTE, with branded RANs connected to a common LTE/SAE core, Collier said the Wimax Forum isn't really looking at it, and plans to have end-to-end certification for Wimax ready in the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, fast-growing Chinese vendor ZTE will supply equipment for LTE trials with two tier-one operators this year. It will deliver LTE gear to a major Asia-Pacific operator for a field trial in Q3, according to ZTE wireless marketing director Richard Ye.

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