Mobile WiMAX versus LTE: Can they co-exist?

Mobile WiMAX is the first out of the gate, but LTE is often considered the more evolutionary technology. The question probably isn't whether they can co-exist--they have enough common elements that it's feasible--it's whether there are enough reasons for them too. "They're not going to merge," Jarich said flatly. "Just from a political standpoint of getting all the parties's just not going to happen. You're going to have these guys fight it out." That might be bad for the carriers but it's good for the vendors who supply weapons to both sides and it's always good for consumers who get more choice.

"When was it ever a good thing for innovation when there is less competition?" asked Orr. "The presence of a rapidly maturing WiMAX ecosystem certainly has had the effect of accelerating LTE well before all the revenue potential was drawn out of HSPA and EVDO." LTE will tap into a base of more than 3.3 billion worldwide subscribers for the "GSM family of technologies," said Pearson. "LTE has momentum in standards development, carrier decisions and an LTE wireless ecosystem being created. There is no reason to slow it down by merging it with WiMAX."

There is, however, a reason for speeding it up to compete with WiMAX. "I can make a pretty strong argument that LTE would be at least four years later if WiMAX were not pulling it forward," Orr said. WiMAX also comes with its own strengths that could add some intrigue to the battle. It's an IP standard from its base up and "performs better in TDD and less mobile environments," Orr said. "LTE performs better in FDD and a high-user count model." That means the two could be complementary-albeit competing. "You're going to have these guys fight it out," concluded Jarich. "Would it be better if we had one technology and not two? Sure, but we have two and we're stuck with them."

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