Like it or not, this is the year that will prove whether there is a business case for mobile WiMAX. If it doesn’t take off in a substantial way in 2008, I think you can safely proclaim it another broadband wireless niche platform that has come and gone, similar to the likes of LMDS, MMDS and some of the proprietary stuff that came before it. It will live on for providing fixed “DSL-equivalent” broadband in remote areas and emerging markets, but it will have missed its chance of becoming a ubiquitous broadband technology for the roaming masses.
If it hasn’t solidified its base by the end of the year, then it will be because carriers have chosen to stick with HSPA and wait for LTE, which will by then be just around the corner. And that will mean that WiMAX has been pushed down to become yet another footnote in wireless broadband history at the expense of the GSM juggernaut. (And the same goes for the other proposed 4G standard, Qualcomm’s UBM, by the way.)
Of course, it could be that WiMAX really does prove itself in 2008 and there are already some encouraging signs. In Japan late last year the government awarded two licences in the 2.5GHz band to consortia headed by KDDI and another to Willcom, with equipment vendors already lining up to provide gear. One thing to bear in mind, however, is that in the case of KDDI, trials are only expected to kick off in February 2009.
Similarly, 2009 is expected to be the year that another potential WiMAX market,
The WiMAX camp also got a generally favourable report from Juniper Research last week suggesting that the mobile WiMAX 802.16e market will grow to $23 billion by 2013, with half of that total coming from
The Juniper report also warns that both the availability of suitable devices and the awarding of licences will be important factors in determining the success of Mobile WiMAX 802.16e, both in
When it comes to devices, one of the WiMAX camp’s trump cards is the backing of Intel, which will see it become standard in every new notebook computer, much the same as Wi-Fi is today. The only problem with this is that if there is no network to connect to, it doesn’t really matter if the notebook is WiMAX-enabled or not.
In contrast, if the push to include HSPA in new devices takes off, the HUGE advantage they have is that the networks and service are widespread already. And the momentum to include HSPA chips in notebooks is likely to happen this year. Throw in all the HSPA-capable mobile phones, and the economies of scale certainly don’t favour WiMAX and won’t any time soon.
Despite some vendor claims to the contrary, WiMAX needs the Sprint rollout in the