Chinese play big role in WiMAX
If it appears that Sprint Nextel is single-handedly crafting the direction of mobile WiMAX, it's not a far-off assumption. Although it doesn't hurt that the Chinese are now in the game.
Speaking to a packed room at FierceMarkets' WiMAX Strategies 2007 conference, held last week in conjunction with NXTComm in Chicago, Barry West, CTO and president of Sprint Nextel's 4G business, stressed the importance of WiMAX-enabled devices that aren't subsidized.
"If we don't get away from subsidies, this open model doesn't work," West declared. The last thing Sprint wants to do is get caught in the subsidy trap because subsidies lead to walled gardens and per megabit overage charges instead of an open Internet model that the company wants to use. That's the whole reason why the operator chose Nokia, Motorola and Samsung as initial vendors. But Chinese vendors ZTE, which is making single-mode 802.16e devices for Sprint, and ZyXel, which will manufacture WiMAX modem products, play an important role.
In fact, getting Chinese vendors involved is a key move for Sprint. "China represents a big opportunity for growth of consumer electronics and WiMAX," noted West. Indeed, WiMAX backers are particularly pleased that the Chinese government is allowing China Mobile, one of the official organizers of wireless communications for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, to include WiMAX in the mix of wireless technologies it is deploying around Beijing for the games. They hope the move paves the way for widespread adoption of WiMAX in China.
The participation of the Chinese is vital given the fact that Sprint's vision revolves around a plethora of WiMAX-enabled consumer devices--such as laptops, portable media players and digital cameras. China, with its vast size, has the power to push prices of these WiMAX-enabled consumer devices down fast to make them attractive enough to consumers without carriers kicking in to pay for them.
You can bet Sprint will be making many courting trips to China.--Lynnette