WiMAX mobile comms advantage shrinking

Despite WiMAX’s head start on the 4G market, other technologies’ evolution is happening quicker than expected

The first mover advantage window that WiMAX has in establishing itself as the dominant future wireless broadcast technology may be shorter than many first expected according to a new report by ABI Research.

The new report examines major drivers and barriers for WiMAX and compares it with 3G and other 4G technologies.  It suggests that even though service providers with the right spectrum, available capital, and access to enough sites to place base stations are in a great position to take advantage of WiMAX’s head start on the 4G market, other technologies’ evolution is happening quicker than expected.

LTE (Long-Term Evolution) and UMB (Ultra Mobile Broadband) are vying as potential wireless broadband technologies for 4G as well but ABI Research predicts that UMB will not gain traction, leaving what it calls a true battle for 4G between mobile WiMAX and LTE.

In this battle, suggests ABI, even though mobile WiMAX has a time-to-market advantage over LTE, delays in certifications by the WiMAX Forum, coupled with delays in network rollouts, could narrow the window of opportunity. 

“The biggest opportunity for mobile WiMAX is the chance to develop a wider device ecosystem and worldwide subscriber base before LTE starts to do the same,” commented ABI Research principal analyst Philip Solis. 

“However, LTE remains a potential threat to WiMAX since 3GPP-backed LTE will become the dominant 4G technology and is progressing quickly toward standardisation.  Additionally, LTE is seeing early trials take place while moving into [Time Division Duplexing] TDD as well as FDD) spectrum territory.”

LTE has intrinsic advantages, being an extension of the existing GSM-based networks used at over 80% of the installed base of telecoms base stations worldwide. ABI forecasts that virtually all WCDMA networks will migrate to LTE and deployment will be at a faster rate than WiMAX with LTE subscriber numbers surpass mobile WiMAX subscribers after 2015.  However, around the same time that LTE rolls out, 802.16m, or WiMAX 2.0, will make its way into products. 

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