Mobile WiMax breakthrough seen this year

Wireless broadband is forecast to become more widespread worldwide with new mobile WiMAX equipment expected to become available towards the end of the year.

Research firm VisionGain Intelligence predicted this in its latest report, saying broadband wireless deployments using pre-802.16e compliant equipment have already begun.

It cited Korea, whose top carriers, KT and SK Telecom, have implemented mobile broadband wireless networks in specific locations throughout the country.

In the US, the report said Sprint and Nextel are deploying an 802.16e (the mobile WiMAX standard) compliant network which will reach 100 million Americans by the end of 2008.

BT, meanwhile, is expected to bid for 2.5-GHz radio frequency spectrum in Ofcom auctions which will take place towards the end of the year. Gaining such spectrum, the report said, will allow the carrier to deploy an efficient WiMAX service and compete with companies such as Vodafone for "triple play" services.

Another factor that is driving the spread of mobile WiMAX, according to the report, is the fact that cable companies are gradually acquiring spectrum and are looking at distributing their content to mobile devices.

"Greenfield operators are also expected to utilize mobile WiMAX technology in order to secure a 3G/4G market position by attracting consumers with an early new level of service. Clearwire is such a carrier with operations in the US, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland, and in Mexico (via MVSnet)," it said

Furthermore, the report noted that equipment manufacturers are becoming increasingly active in mobile WiMAX, with vendors such as Samsung, Nortel, Alcatel-Lucent, and Nokia-Siemens all involved in 802.16e projects globally.

"Companies that have been heavily involved in operator proprietary broadband wireless implementations such as Alvarion and Proxim are now also developing 802.16e compliant platforms," it observed.

Various chipset providers such as Wavesat, Runcom Technologies, and Beceem Communications, the report noted, are also developing OFDMA chips and are testing their products for interoperability with solutions from other vendors.

"Dual-mode handsets are expected become popular with mobile WiMAX deployments with GSM/OFDMA and CDMA/OFDMA handsets dominating the market," it said.

However, the report warned of a 'confusion' that might arise as it cited the case of Ericsson which said that by the year 2010, mobile WiMAX will account for only 5-10% of global broadband wireless revenues. It is therefore more focused on broadband cellular technologies, the report said.

The basis of Ericsson's apprehension lies in the fact that the 2.5-GHz spectrum is crucial to the success of mobile WiMAX, particularly throughout the Western world.


In Europe, the study said there is little interest from mobile operators on mobile WiMAX because HSDPA is dominating the cellular market and the 2.5-GHz spectrum is unavailable throughout most of the continent. In the case of the US, a lot of the 2.5-GHz spectrum is owned by Sprint.

"Also, HSDPA operators are expected to begin upgrading to another cellular technology, LTE, in 2009/2010 with subscribers exceeding 250 million by the year 2015," the report said.

But, as the report noted, while LTE is still being deliberated by GSM standards bodies, WiMAX has its distinct advantage - it is available now.