IMS Research: Mobile WiMAX will be a niche technology

Despite the fact that mobile WiMAX has a time-to-market advantage over LTE by at least two years, analysts at IMS Research believe the technology at best will remain a niche mobile technology. That's because network operators are just now beginning to see a return on their 3G networks and won't be ready to upgrade to an OFDM-based technology until about the time LTE is ready.

The fact that LTE won't be ready for another two to three years may actually turn out to be a boon for LTE as the time frame will allow mobile operators to get as much life as possible out of their existing 3G networks, says a new report from IMS Research. Incremental upgrades to enhanced 3G technologies such as HSPA+ and EV-DO Rev B will allow for almost the same data rates as the initial LTE deployments, which will effectively set the stage for large-scale LTE commercial rollouts in three to four years.

LTE has a further advantage because the majority of cellular operators around the world will choose LTE as their migration path given the fact that 3GPP has tabbed LTE as the next-generation standard for the GSM community.

"The truth is that WiMAX is a very robust technology that has been quite successful in many parts of the world as a fixed broadband solution and will continue to do so, especially in under-served markets," said IMS Research analyst Bob Perez. "Although mobile WiMAX networks are already going live thanks to Sprint/Clearwire and Korea Telecom, the prospect of additional mobile WiMAX networks from Tier 1 operators are looking pretty grim." 

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