Vodafone ready to bet on WiMAX

Less than 10 percent of Vodafone revenues are derived from 3G services. That's what Arun Sarin, Vodafone CEO, told conference-goers at last week's 3GSM conference in Barcelona. Sarin also said that adopting WiMAX over LTE is a clever "bet on every number of the roulette wheel" strategy, one that eventually will allow Vodafone to dovetail into the "total communications" solution--a mantra that CEO Sarin now champions.

Vodafone's move toward WiMAX appears inexorable. Its partners are already heavily involved with WiMAX: Vodafone subsidiary SFR in France has deployed a WiMAX network with its partner Neuf Cegetel. Vodafone network partner MTC-Vodafone recently won a license for WiMAX spectrum in Bahrain and the company is expected to bid on WiMAX licenses to be auctioned in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Vodafone also acquired a WiMAX license in Greece last year, and is deploying a network in Malta. The company also has been testing WiMAX in New Zealand.

Kenneth Ashworth reports that Sarin intimated that Vodafone has grown frustrated with the pace of GSM development, and "thus it became evident that Sarin was urging the mobile industry to prepare for an eventual paradigm shift." Indeed, Sarin left no doubt that he was convinced of the threat posed to LTE technology by WiMAX, saying: "The industry could be left arguing over standards while WiMAX services roll out and make [LTE] irrelevant."

Sarin was not alone in his recognition of the impending ascendance of WiMAX. Nortel CEO Mike Zafirovski told a keynote audience at the conference that 3G was not good enough to meet wireless broadband demands. Ashworth concludes: "Time to market seems mission critical for mobile broadband technologies, and most speakers at the 3GSM conference seemed convinced that the wireless broadband crown already has been passed to WiMAX."

For more on Vodafone and WiMAX
- see Kenneth Ashworth's Seeking Alpha report