Mobile industry braces for Wimax/LTE wars

Wimax is out in full force at this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, prompting fears that the industry could be facing a new standards war between Wimax and LTE.

"We went from having virtually no products here in Barcelona last year to having over 40 companies with real products on their stands, so Wimax is here and it's real," said Wimax Forum president Ron Resnick at the show venue on Tuesday.

Resnick said 28 Wimax products in the 2.3 GHz and 2.5 GHz frequency bands had been submitted for Wimax Forum certification since the forum's labs opened for business late last year. The forum is aiming to certify 100 products for interoperability by the end of this year, and 270 by 2010 - not including CPE gear. The industry body, which lists almost 540 member companies, promoted a walking booth tour of over 40 companies at the show demonstrating Wimax equipment.

Resnick also unveiled the forum's roadmap strategy for 700 MHz mobile Wimax certification, which will include profiles for both FDD and TDD, as well as a global roaming plan which will be launched in the second half of 2008.

The Wimax juggernaut has taken many at the MWC event by surprise, with several delegates telling telecomasia.net that they weren't expecting Wimax to have such a prominent presence - particularly at a forum where LTE, the official all-IP broadband wireless roadmap supported by the GSM Association, is supposed to be the star of the show.

GSMA chairman Craig Ehrlich has been openly critical of the Wimax business case, describing it as too little, too late in the face of escalating HSDPA rollouts and the coming of LTE. Officials at China's MII attacked Wimax's inclusion last October as an IMT-2000 standard, seeing it as a rival to their homegrown TD-SCDMA technology.

Now, however, Wimax has built up enough momentum to prompt Vodafone chief Arun Sarin in his opening keynote at the MWC to urge the mobile industry to avoid a standards war between LTE and Wimax. Sarin went as far as to call on the industry to work on a harmonized LTE/Wimax standard rather than risk a protracted R&D war similar to the one experienced by the GSM and CDMA industries.

Asked for a response to the concept of a harmonized LTE/Wimax standard, Resnick merely replied that it was his job to ensure that Wimax was successful, "and it's really up to the operators if that's what they want to do."

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