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Mobile broadband demand props up crunched WiMAX

Worries are developing for the rollout of a key potential mobile computing enabler following reports that the recession is hitting significantly the rollout of WiMAX technology.

This could not come at a worse time for those behind the WiMAX mobile broadband standard who have been under increasing pressure from firms developing technology based on other standards to support future mobile computing applications.

According to a new survey by Infonetics Research, compared with the second quarter of 2008, sales of fixed and mobile WiMAX equipment and phones/Ultra Mobile PCs dropped 21% to $245 million in Q3 . Furthermore, sales are expected to continue to fall throughout 2009.

Infonetics expects the global recession to cause some consumers and enterprises to postpone WiMAX adoption but argues that demand for personal broadband services will likely continue to grow. It predicts that the number of worldwide fixed and mobile WiMAX subscribers will exceed 76 million in 2011, as demand, albeit slower, will continue through the recession.

Even though the economic recession has acted as a damper to total WiMAX rollout, explained Infonetics, fixed WiMAX had already reached a plateau prior to the economic downturn. The analyst believes that such technology had displayed a third consecutive quarter of revenue decline.

By contrast, mobile WiMAX overtook fixed WiMAX spending in the first quarter of 2008 and now makes up almost three-quarters of worldwide WiMAX equipment sales.

And in what could be the first sign of a growing trend of the preference service providers are showing for mobile WiMAX, leading WiMAX provider leader Alvarion has embarked upon a programme to migrate its customer base from fixed to mobile.

According to the Infonetics survey, in Q308, Alvarion overtook Alcatel-Lucent and Motorola in the mobile WiMAX market, having its best ever quarter for WiMAX revenue. The three companies together accounted for over 60% of worldwide mobile WiMAX revenue and, with Samsung, account for nearly 3/4 of all publicly announced mobile WiMAX customers.

Commented 'rw' Richard Webb, wireless analyst for Infonetics Research, “With less cash available for network rollout, and possibly less spectrum being auctioned until the current financial crisis passes, WiMAX deployment will be inhibited for the next 12 months. Infonetics expects revenue growth to return to the overall WiMAX market in 2010, with growth being driven by mobile WiMAX, as a growing number of WiMAX networks are being rolled out based on 802.16e, even if initial services will be fixed CPE-based broadband."


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