UK-based Freedom4 has been granted a licence variation by the telecoms regulator, Ofcom, to enable it to offer mobile WiMAX services across the UK. The company, which is part-owned by Intel Capital, said that the move would allow it to launch a 4G-style mobile broadband product of its own and in direct competition with the country's five main mobile network operators.
The company, which will use WiMAX equipment supplied by Starent, owns the largest WiMAX broadband wireless spectrum licence consisting of two blocks of 84MHz in the frequency band 3.6-4.2GHz. However, the company has not detailed any deployment timescales and its existing fixed WiMAX coverage would appear to be very limited. Part of the new conditions granted by Ofcom will permit Freedom4 to increase the maximum permitted base station power.
While Intel provides the financial muscle for Freedom4, Motorola has agreed to provide a portion of the US$100 million that the Irish network operator, Imagine, needs to replace its existing wireless nationwide infrastructure with WiMAX. Motorola said it would also provide deployment, integration and support services to Imagine in addition to WiMAX equipment.
Imagine said that its fixed WiMAX service was already in operation, and phase one of the rollout covering 250,000 homes in Dublin, Wexford, Sligo, Tralee and Athlone would be completed by mid-November 2009.
These two WiMAX announcements follow on from Clearwire International's statement that it would offer mobile WiMAX in two Spanish cities starting next year.
But despite these announcements, industry analysts are maintaining their long-held view that WiMAX will, at best, remain a niche technology. Ovum recently forecast that WiMAX will account for less than 5 per cent of the world's 1.5 billion fixed and mobile broadband connections by 2014.
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