WiMAX: A niche market only, says supporter

Having conducted Mobile WiMAX trials in the UK, a member of the Mobile WiMax Acceleration Group (M-WAG) admitted that the technology seemed to be successful for niche applications, but the lack of any major operator backing the technology would probably prevent a UK-wide deployment.

According to M-WAG member Harry Aldridge, who is also CEO of wholesale wireless network operator Bluenowhere, Mobile WiMAX could serve a substantial niche market in the UK, although most operators in the western world appear to have settled on LTE as their future 4G service. "We don't rule out that Mobile WiMAX could be deployed as a 4G-type service in the UK, but it's our view that it would require either an existing mobile operator to commit to deploying it as their 4G solution, or it would require an equally established company with big pockets to deploy on that basis to have any chance of making it a success," Aldridge said, admitting that M-WAG had not identified any such major backers and does not expect to see WiMAX deployed as a ubiquitous, national 4G mobile-broadband network.

Recognising the level of operator commitment to LTE, Aldridge maintained that Mobile WiMAX should be viewed as less about mobile broadband and far more about an untethered, ubiquitous DSL alternative. "This would deliver an open IP broadband connection across town centres and things of that nature, rather than to a handset or consumer or enterprise user."

Meanwhile, another indication that WiMAX has become less important to the major infrastructure players was Nokia Siemens Networks' decision to scrap the WiMAX version of its Flexi base station, although the company would continue to support WiMAX operators as a managed services provider. Instead, NSN will partner with Alvarion to resell its WiMAX BreezeMax portfolio when needed.

Alcatel-Lucent announced last year it would scale back its WiMAX R&D and support the technology primarily as a fixed wireless solution.

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