Operators play wait and see with WiMAX

For 2008 every aspiring WiMAX operator will be intently watching the progress being made by Sprint with its WiMAX venture. From a European perspective there is an added ingredient--2.6GHz spectrum auctions.

This is made more interesting by Western Europe being the stronghold of HSPA for mobile broadband, which is deemed to be a natural follow-on from W-CDMA and not requiring new frequencies or a network deployment necessitated by WiMAX. However, significant auctions are on the horizon in the UK, Italy and Norway, and how this plays out will be a key indicator for the future of both fixed and mobile WiMAX in this region.

Many believe that deploying WiMAX in the major European countries will face significant opposition from the established operators, given their investment in 3G and HSPA. The increasing availability of low-cost HSDPA dongles aimed at the laptop user community is already gaining strength and will only increase as operators tailor data tariffs to attract more users.

To counter this viewpoint, 2008 could see the first multi-mode handset (WiMAX and HSPA) becoming available with the ability to switch between networks depending on whichever technology is the best in a given set of circumstances.

Supporting this latter vision is Howard Wilcox, an analyst at Juniper Research. "We've seen WiMAX take a big step forward with its inclusion as part of the IMT2000 specification. It's accepted now and we'll see mobile operators become more technology agnostic as they concentrate further on the financial business case for services as against the complexities of networks, etc."