Wimax ARPU rises even as LTE roll outs set

Adlane Fellah/Maravedis
26 Nov 2009

In the second quarter, Wimax reached the milestone of 500 network deployments in at least 145 countries, according to the Wimax Forum. At the close of the second quarter, the 4GCounts operator tracking service ticked off over 3.96 million broadband wireless access/Wimax subscribers. That’s a growth rate of 16% from the previous quarter and 72% over the same quarter in 2008.

With a monthly residential ARPU of $39.50 and business ARPU of $121.80, the worldwide subscriber base generated estimated quarterly revenues of $710.3 million. Residential subscribers continue to dominate the customer mix, accounting for 69%.

On the one hand, concrete successful commercial deployments such as those of Clearwire (US), Scartel (Russia) and Wateen Telecom (Pakistan) have shown that Wimax is able to provide a mobile broadband experience that no other technology had.

On the other hand, many operators continue to struggle with the technology, facing a lack of capacity, technology instability, unavailability of devices, interoperability problems, lack of spectrum and regulatory constraints.

The Wimax industry has new promise in the Wimax 802.16m standard, which will be backward-compatible with 802.16e-2005 and will provide speeds of up to 120 Mbps downlink and 60 Mbps uplink, according to the IEEE's IMT-Advanced proposal.

The list of mobile operators that have made official announcements regarding plans to launch a LTE network continues to grow. In total, 4GCounts is now covering 39 operators committed to deploying LTE, which have either confirmed this directly or made official announcements to that effect.

LTE is gaining momentum and will be the technology of choice for most mobile operators worldwide. However, major delays to the availability of LTE devices are expected considering the work still required on the silicon side.

Data-only devices to support LTE networks will arrive in 2010, including data cards and USB devices. Mobile internet devices, notebooks with embedded LTE and, possibly, data-only handsets will follow in 2011. Voice-centric LTE handsets are expected by 2012, but low coverage by LTE will require handovers with 2G and 3G networks.

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