Interest in LTE may actually spur WiMAX deployments

Lynnette LunaHeadlines are declaring the death of WiMAX thanks to Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) financial troubles and the momentum LTE has in the market, but I'd argue that WiMAX may very well experience renewed growth now that vendors can promise a migration path to TD-LTE.

Last week, Alvarion signed a $75-million deal with Canada's rural broadband provider Barrett Xplore to deploy a WiMAX network across the country. And the deal includes the option of migrating to TD-LTE in the future. In India, where a slew of companies won wireless broadband licenses, WiMAX and LTE advocates have been swarming, but it may very well be that WiMAX will be the technology deployed now because it's mature with an eye on TD-LTE tomorrow and the assurance from vendors that a transition will be smooth in the future.

While all major WiMAX infrastructure vendors now offer single RAN solutions capable of migrating WiMAX operators to TD-LTE down the line, devices have been cited as the sticking point. Operators would need to seed the market with dual-mode LTE/WiMAX devices from the beginning so that subscribers aren't left in the dark when the switchover happens.

With its acquisition of Beceem (see related story), chip vendor Broadcom hopes to play in the sweet spot of that market. Beceem has been developing a multi-mode chipset, and Scott Bibaud, Broadcom's executive vice president and general manager for mobile platforms, agrees that the hype surrounding LTE is actually playing in WiMAX's favor as many countries have an eye on LTE, but realize it's not mature enough. WiMAX is seen as an interim step with a guaranteed path that will eventually lead to TD-LTE.

So there's an interesting niche market developing here for equipment and software suppliers. Those companies that can provide the most compelling and easy upgrade from WiMAX to LTE beyond the single RAN could have a healthy chunk of business going forward.--Lynnette

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