4G World Preview: Sword of consolidation hangs over mobile WiMAX vendors – page 2

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Jean-Pierre Lartigue, marketing and strategy vice president for the wireless product division of Alcatel-Lucent (which is exhibiting at 4G World in booth 411), said the company's approach to WiMAX reflects this reality. He said Alcatel-Lucent sells mobile WiMAX equipment for what are essentially fixed applications, while it reserves LTE for nationwide, mobile wireless plays. Thus, Alcatel-Lucent's strategy essentially ignores Clearwire's mobile WiMAX effort in favor of selling equipment to carriers in emerging markets looking to provide last-mile solutions.

(And, Dell'Oro's Siegler pointed out, that strategy may play a role in Alcatel-Lucent's dramatic loss of mobile WiMAX market share. According to the firm's research, Alcatel-Lucent's share of the market dropped from almost 17 percent in the second quarter of last year to around 8 percent in the second quarter of this year.)

So which vendors will stay and which will go? Without the benefit of a crystal ball it's hard to say. Some of the market's major players appear determined to stick it out. "Motorola was one of the first vendors to commit solely to 802.16e WiMAX solutions, and our early foray into this business is one of the reasons we enjoy a leadership position in the mobile WiMAX market today," said Fred Gabbard, vice president of product management for wireless networks in Motorola's Home and Network Mobility division. (Motorola is exhibiting at 4G World at booth 501.) "We are committed to WiMAX and serving the ever-growing number of operators, including many who are deploying smaller or rural systems to connect the unconnected."

Motorola's successes in the market may be largely tied to its deal with Clearwire. Indeed, the U.S. mobile WiMAX carrier plans to spend up to $1.3 billion in the second half of this year, according to Siegler, money sure to buoy the company's network suppliers, including Motorola, Samsung and Huawei.

Alvarion too predicts continued success, despite the fact that the company has not been selected as a Clearwire supplier. Alvarion's Sharma said that many mobile WiMAX vendors "have found their own niche." Sharma said Alvarion is working to break into vertical markets such as public safety and video surveillance.

Some of the market's smaller players, such as Redline and Airspan, also may be able to find similar corners in which to play. Though Siegler warned it will be difficult for small vendors to remain steady in a maturing market.

Interestingly, WiMAX may not be the end of the line for all of the market's players. When asked whether Alvarion would consider expanding from WiMAX and into the nascent but potentially massive market for LTE equipment, Sharma provided a strong hint to the company's possible strategy: "If we find the right opportunity we will develop LTE."

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4G World Preview:
Reality check - apps and back office are a priority
LTE applications, business models still up for debate
Sword of consolidation hangs over mobile WiMAX vendors
Backhaul to remain a challenge
Solving the femtocell dilemma