Is WiMAX a service complement for mobile operators?

A new report from In-Stat says WiMAX is more of a service complement than a competitive threat for mobile operators. The research firm says the debate can be broken down into two camps.

"One camp led by select equipment vendors with no stake in WiMAX has taken an either/or approach to discussing mobile WiMAX," said In-Stat analyst Daryl Schoolar. "Any gain by WiMAX comes at the expense of other 3G data technologies. In the other camp, infrastructure vendors like Alcatel-Lucent, Motorola, and Nokia Siemens see a world where multiple mobile wireless broadband technologies will co-exist. In-Stat believes that the latter camp's view will prevail."

In-Stat backs this up for a few reasons. First, since the technology has been accepted by ITU, that move will open new markets for WiMAX. And mobile WiMAX will be more successful with laptops and other consumer electronic devices than in phones, offering new revenue opportunities for existing mobile operators.

Indeed, many WiMAX advocates have always touted WiMAX as a complementary technology. But when companies such as infrastructure giant Ericsson and leading chip vendor Qualcomm aren't in the WiMAX camp, WiMAX becomes a competitive threat to HSDPA and LTE.

Interestingly, Rupert Baines, vice president of marketing with picoChip, a leading WiMAX base station semiconductor company, says the market has already evolved to the point where WiMAX isn't a competitive threat since it is serving different groups of operators. He notes that most of the W-CDMA community will evolve to 4G LTE while the world's major CDMA operators, with the exception of Verizon Wireless, are going for WiMAX since we've seen Sprint, Japan's KDDI and Korea's SK Telecom deploy WiMAX. "UMB (the 4G path for CDMA) doesn't even count as the walking dead anymore," noted Baines. --Lynnette