WiMAX goes live in Spain (does it open a wider door?)

Clearwire has launched a WIMAX internet service in Malaga, Spain, that it claims covers the entire metropolitan area of the city and nearly 600,000 potential users. The launch is the company's first WiMAX network in Europe and is being marketed as providing download speeds of 3 Mbps to 6 Mbps with bursts to over 10 Mbps.

Customers in Malaga will be able to access Clearwire's Instanet service with or without a service contract for a starting price of €29.90 per month. Customers who acquire a combination of services including Instanet Home and Instanet City will receive a lifetime 50 per cent discount on their bills.

While the company's CEO, Bill Morrow, mentioned last week at CES that he was holding talks with satellite, telecom and consumer electronics companies about using its WiMAX high-speed wireless network, this effort seemed focused on the US.

However, given the near-collapse of several European operators' backhaul network due to surging smartphone data traffic, Clearwire's ambition to sell wholesale capacity could become an attractive alternative.

The opportunity of WiMAX in Europe--seen by the majority as slim, at best--has been boosted more recently over the concerns surrounding the lack of support for voice and SMS over LTE. The market research firm Frost & Sullivan (F&S) recently stated that the lack of consensus to resolve this issue could be an impediment to the large-scale roll out of LTE, thereby allowing alternative technologies such as Mobile WiMAX to take advantage of the situation, and significantly penetrate the European market.

F&S claims that voice and text messaging currently constitute nearly 85 per cent of global mobile service revenues, and mobile operators need to band together to stop the fragmentation of voice and SMS delivery over LTE.

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