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Mobile broadband battle muddies mobile computing buying plans

Joe O'Halloran

Even though it looks increasingly likely that IT professionals will soon have the mobile broadband technologies to meet business needs, IT departments may face a potentially business-significant decision as to which candidate mobile broadband technology to choose.

According to industry research firm Informa Telecoms & Media, by the next five years, 103 million subscribers will adopt WiMAX for wireless broadband whilst key rival HSPA will have more than 1 billion.

Over the last year, WiMAX has begun to enjoy market momentum with a number of key milestones including product certification, the launch of services by major operators such as Sprint Nextel, commitments to WiMAX by key Internet players such as Google, and the long-awaited arrival of WiMAX notebooks and other devices.

Quoting Charles Dickens, “It’s the best and worst of times for WiMAX,” says Mike Roberts, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. “In many major emerging markets all the pieces are falling into place for WiMAX, including availability of spectrum, huge pent-up demand for broadband, certification of mobile WiMAX equipment, and the arrival of new lower-cost devices such as ultra-portable notebooks and netbooks,” says Roberts. “For example our forecasts show that WiMAX will account for 24% of India ’s total broadband subscribers by 2013, up from 7% in 2008.”

However Informa also estimates that rival wireless broadband communication technology HSDPA has become a runaway success in many markets worldwide, and emerging rival LTE has accelerated and gained the backing of most of the world’s major mobile operators, including Vodafone and China Mobile.

“The converging broadband market has changed dramatically in the last year due to the rise of HSDPA and the acceleration of LTE,” says Roberts. “There’s no doubt that Mobile WiMAX has come of age in the last year with the launch of major new services such as Sprint’s Xohm, but it now faces a tough fight with HSDPA and eventually LTE in key markets. As a result, many WiMAX vendors and operators need to reshape their strategies.”

To overcome the challenges and gain traction against HSPA and LTE in fiercely competitive markets, Informa predicts that operators will likely use WiMAX as a platform for innovative new business models, devices, applications and services.

 

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