BWA/WiMAX subscribers to reach 13M by year-end 2010

By Cintia Garza, Team Leader 4GCounts & Market Analyst CALA, and the 4GCounts Team According to the latest 4Gcounts Quarterly Report (Issue 12), the BWA/WiMAX industry could reach up to 13 million subscribers by the end of the year, up from 9 million reported in Q2 2010. Despite questions about WiMAX's long-term roadmap, deployments continue on a large scale.

Of the 9 million BWA/WiMAX million subscribers reported, 5 million are concentrated in the top 20 WiMAX operators. Clearwire (USA), Yota (Russia), Inukshuk (Canada), Axtel (Mexico), Telmex (International), and Korea Telecom (South Korea) are among those with the highest subscriber numbers. Before 2010 comes to a close we will see other major WiMAX deployments, such as the recently announced deal between Barrett Xplore (Canada) and Alvarion to launch a 4G/WiMAX network covering 2.5 million households across Canada. Some Indian operators such as Reliance deploying WiMAX in anticipation of TD-LTE, since they are holding WiMAX trials at this time.

Today there are more than 600 WiMAX deployments across 149 countries, and more than 200 devices and 60 base stations certified. Our research indicates that mobile WiMAX is outpacing fixed and proprietary deployments by far. The BWA/WiMAX subscriber market share by standard today is 57 percent mobile WiMAX, 25 percent fixed WiMAX and 17 percent proprietary. We have observed decreasing numbers of fixed and proprietary devices installed every quarter, as compared to a continuous growth in the number of mobile WiMAX devices installed. In Q2 2010 indoor modems held the largest market share, accounting for over 4.26 million installed base units or 57 percent, this is followed by 1.56 million or 21 percent USB dongles, and 0.55 million or 7 percent PCMCIA cards. At this pace, we believe that indoor modems will account for only 30 percent by the end of 2011, while USB dongles and handsets/smartphones will account for approximately 25 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

The installed base of base station sectors as of Q2 2010 totaled 333,323, an increase of 10 percent from 303,287 in Q1 2010. The majority of base stations installed were 802.16e-2005 (accounting for 47 percent and 50 percent in Q1 2010 and Q2 2010 respectively); our latest quarterly report predicts that an additional 50,000 base stations will be installed in the third quarter of the year.

Maravedis tracked over 128 LTE operator commitments as of September 2010. More than 59 LTE trials had been conducted, and 4 commercial LTE deployments were currently in-progress, including: Teliasonera (Sweden), Netcom (Norway), Vodafone (Germany), and most recently MetroPCS (USA)--although in small areas and with limited offering.

While Verizon prepares for its much-anticipated LTE commercial launch planned for December 2010, AT&T expects to launch its LTE network around the middle of 2011. T-Mobile USA, the remaining Tier 1 U.S. cellular carrier committed to LTE, continues to seek access to 4G spectrum for the medium term.

China Mobile has emerged as a leader in the TD-LTE movement, with expected pilot launches in four cities in the second half of 2010 covering 50-100 million POPs. Within the next 5 years there will be a healthy ecosystem growing to support TD-LTE. So far, 2010 has seen the introduction of TD-LTE chipsets, USB dongles, routers and base stations are available for 2.3 GHz and 2.6 GHz from multiple vendors for commercial deployment. Other operators planning to deploy TD-LTE include Vodafone (Germany), which had a small rural commercial launch this year using 800 MHz FDD spectrum. Vodafone has 2.6 GHz TDD spectrum, however it must meet certain coverage requirements imposed by the regulator in the 800 MHz band before deploying with any other frequency band, which should not happen before 2011. SK Telecom in South Korea has been conducting TD-LTE tests with China Mobile and is planning to start deployment in 2011.

Despite the hype around TD-LTE, many important questions remain unanswered. There isn't much of an ecosystem in the near term, while WiMAX is available today at a fraction of the price of 3G.

These and many other important 4G industry events and trends are discussed in the 12th issue of the 4Gcounts Quarterly Report. Click here to download the report brochure. Or write us at [email protected] for further information.

Cintia Garza is Team Leader 4GCounts & Market Analyst CALA. For more information, contact the author at [email protected]. Maravedis is a research and analysis firm focusing on BWA technologies. For more information visit