Nokia: WiMAX comments taken out of context

Nokia finds itself scrambling to do damage control over alleged disparaging comments pertaining to WiMAX. Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia's head of sales and manufacturing, is claiming the Financial Times took his comments out of context, quoting him as comparing WiMAX to Betamax, the video format that met its end when VHS triumphed in the 1970s and 1980s. Vanjoki was speaking at a Nokia launch event last week in San Francisco (One would think someone recorded it).

 "I don't see that WiMAX is taking hold anywhere in a big way," Vanjoki was quoted as saying. "I don't think the future is very promising [for WiMAX]. This is a classic example of industry standards clashing, and somebody comes out as the winner and somebody has to lose. Betamax was there for a long time, but VHS dominated the market. I see exactly the same thing happening here."

Vanjoki claims he was making general references to how technology winners and losers are chosen, not speculating on which standard would win. Last month, James Harper, Nokia's senior manager of technology marketing, called WiMAX a "niche play" while speaking at a Portable Computer and Communications Association meeting held in Grapevine, Texas. Harper said WiMAX's lack of backward compatibility and a clear roadmap were major drawbacks. Just days after that, Nokia denied it was completely abandoning WiMAX as a 4G technology.

Intel, one of WiMAX's strongest proponents and a major investor in WiMAX service provider Clearwire, apparently was angered by the comments, according to a report on the website Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse is said to have emailed Intel to tell them that Vanjoki called him to deny comparing WiMAX to Betamax. Sprint holds a 51 percent stake in Clearwire. 

Sprint spokeswoman Stephanie Walsh told FierceWireless the company would not comment on cross-company confidential communications or internal CEO communications. However, she said: "I do believe his comments were taken out of context," referring to Vanjoki.

Still, the main question remains: Is Nokia, on the device side, still playing in the WiMAX market? Earlier this year, the vendor ended production of the N810 WiMAX tablet but said action "does not apply to other WiMAX business development efforts that Nokia is involved in." We still haven't heard what other WiMAX business developments it is involved in. Could Nokia be watching to see what Clearwire does in the next year?

For more:
- see the Inquirer

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