802.16e sales to surpass fixed WiMAX's by 2008

It won't be long now: ABI Research says that, by 2008, mobile WiMAX sales will surpass the sales of fixed WiMAX. This may surprise some, as 802.16-2004-based solutions have been adopted more and more during the past year. Still, the research group says that the mobile version, 802.16-2005, will arrive sooner than expected, and will likely be adopted at a faster clip than anticipated. ABI's Alan Varghese says, though, that in order to be technically and economically viable, mobile WiMAX ICs should hit "sweet spots" on a number of parameters, and that vendors who find these  sweet spots will quickly benefit.

"ABI Research sees fixed WiMAX sales hitting a peak in 2007 and then leveling off," Varghese says. "Mobile WiMAX will start to see deployments in 2007, and the crossover point between the two will be late in 2008. Considering that it takes a year to design ASICs and then more time to design them into end-equipment, vendors up and down the value chain need to be discussing the required tradeoffs in their strategy meetings now."

Everything about a mobile platform--performance, power consumption, cost requirements--is more challenging. For example: MIMO will be required, but the technology requires more demanding circuitry, so IC vendors will have to trade off MIMO performance for die area, power usage, and price. Price is an issue as well: The ASP for the WiMAX RF is about $15 and for the baseband about $23; the total is more than the BOM for a low-tier device, so considerable cost reduction is needed.

WiMAX IC companies to watch: Beceem Communications and Runcom, two companies which bypassed 802.16d and headed directly toward 802.16e. Varghese says, however, that these two upstarts may well be eclipsed by companies such as Redpine Signals, RF Magic, Sequans, Sierra Monolithics, Telecis, and Wavesat, precisely because the latter companies have gained experience by deploying fixed WiMAX. He also says that we should not lose sight of giants such as Fujitsu and Intel.

For more on mobile WiMAX projections:
- see the summary of ABI Research's report