Wireless carriers are beginning to discover that the future is now. Thus, they are starting to make critical decisions about their 4G strategies as mobile WiMAX (802.16e) moves from trials and pilots to the first real-world network deployments.
As described in a new study from ABI Research, mobile operators and other service providers are planning mobile WiMAX networks all over the world, mainly in the 2.5 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands. “The mobile wireless industry is in a state of major change as mobile operators decide which IP OFDMA path they will take for their 4G networks,” says principal mobile broadband analyst Philip Solis. “The new and unproven (on a large commercial scale) mobile WiMAX has positioned itself against the potential Goliath that Long Term Evolution (LTE) is expected to become.”
ABI predicts “substantial numbers” of WiMAX subscribers worldwide, with more than 95 million using CPE devices by 2012 and almost 200 million using mobile devices, with some overlap between the two groups.
Solis points out that while WiMAX equipment interoperability certification timelines have slipped somewhat, and LTE benefits from having evolved out of the widely-deployed GSM technology, WiMAX has at least a two-year head start in reaching the market.
The major semiconductor and equipment makers, with the exception of Qualcomm and Ericsson, are staking out their positions for this emerging sector, while operators’ enthusiasm, led by Sprint’s and Clearwire’s firm commitments in the United States, is rising sharply. Vodafone is looking to WiMAX for some of its newer markets such as the Middle East and Eastern Europe; BT and Telecom Italia Mobile are also showing interest. And ABI Research understands that another as yet unnamed “major European mobile operator” is “seriously considering WiMAX.”
Meanwhile, amid this increasing momentum, chipset companies are positioning themselves to support a wide variety of device types beyond the traditional handsets and laptops, including UMPCs; mobile Internet devices’ and such consumer electronics products as portable game devices, portable media players, and imaging devices.