Is mobile WiMAX gaining significant momentum? It certainly looks so when a major vendor such as Nortel, which joined the WiMAX Forum a few years ago primarily to keep tabs on what the organization was doing, now declares that WiMAX is a primary strategy for the company.
During last week's CTIA show, Nortel surprised me by indicating it is doubling its investments in mobile WiMAX, saying there is a big opportunity for alternative operators to deliver wireless broadband services. It would be interesting to know who these alternative players are. In the U.S., we've heard speculation that Rupert Murdoch's DirecTV might get into the WiMAX game, and interestingly enough, Nortel is already advertising plans to introduce a solution that would work in the 1.5 GHz band in the U.S., although there isn't a developed profile for WiMAX use in the band at this point, according to Signals Research. Signals Research said there is about 90 MHz of potentially viable spectrum that satellite providers or others could use to offer terrestrial broadband wireless services. It's not clear to me who owns the spectrum and how much might be plagued by interference from adjacent channels. FLASH-OFDM proponents also want in the spectrum.
Talk to the WiMAX Forum and it says that carriers around the world, primarily in areas where 3G isn't as prevalent, such as Latin America, are considering a move to mobile WiMAX instead of WCDMA. It makes sense on paper given the fact that on paper mobile WiMAX is a 4G solution, but Nortel said last week that mobility management will be lacking in the initial standard, meaning networks will be nomadic in nature focusing on a data play. You have to wonder how long it will take for mobile WiMAX to evolve to full mobility. Remember, OFDMA, the technology mobile WiMAX is based on, has had very limited commercial mobility experience. Mobility management is the most difficult part of implementing the standard.
At any rate, Nortel and other large vendors can afford to put big bucks into mobile WiMAX development even if the market doesn't take off in a big way. Why? Because the technology going into mobile WiMAX is relevant for future generations of today's 3G standards. The world's major mobile standards are moving to OFDMA and MIMO. Nortel says it has about 70 patents pertaining to OFDMA and MIMO and is spending a lot of time and effort to embed those in wireless networks everywhere.
FierceWireless won't be publishing tomorrow because of the Good Friday holiday. See you Monday. - Lynnette