Prospects fade for Mobile WiMAX

The launch of commercial LTE services by late 2009 is seen as one of the bigger of many nails in the coffin of Mobile WiMAX, claims a new study by Frost & Sullivan (F&S), a market research firm.

According to Luke Thomas of F&S, the prospects for the technology are coming under increasing threat unless spectrum auctions and commercial Mobile WiMAX rollouts (compliant to Wave 2 Phase 2 certification) do not take place by 2008. "Recent events have been unfavourable toward the technology. Any operator looking at Mobile WiMAX has to consider the current environment in which 97 per cent of laptops are shipped with Wi-Fi. 3G LTE is expected to be a fully ratified standard by the end of 2008 or beginning of 2009 with deployments slated to occur in late 2009 or early 2010 offering peak data rates of up to 170Mbps."

Thomas believes that 2009 will be the year when operators begin to realize that Mobile WiMAX can no more be considered as a feasible mobile broadband "access" technology. He comments: "In terms of indoor wireless broadband, WiFi fits well in this space and with the emergence of 802.11n, which includes MIMO, throughputs would be far better than what Mobile WiMAX can deliver. With respect to outdoor mobile broadband environments, users would expect Mobile WiMAX to seamlessly hand off to cellular networks in the absence of WiMAX reception. In reality this is not possible as Mobile WiMAX is not backward compatible with existing cellular technologies."

Regardless of this pessimistic viewpoint, Intel has continued to invest and lobby for the greater adoption of Mobile WiMAX, as seen by its recent acquisition of a WiMAX licence in Scandinavia.

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