WiMAX's growing sphere of influence
Next week's 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona is shaping up to be a testament to the growing awareness of WiMAX. Last year, 3GSM vendors made some mention of WiMAX, but they primarily focused on their GSM equipment. After all, WiMAX was a fairly new concept in 2006. And since 3GSM is hosted by the GSM Association, vendors understandably devoted their time to the promotion of their GSM equipment.
But this year WiMAX technology is real, and it has the support of Sprint, a tier one U.S. operator. Any vendor that wants to be a player in WiMAX has to tout its technology--and what better way than at the largest wireless event in the world.
I expect to hear a lot about this potentially disruptive technology at next week's 3GSM World Congress. Sprint Nextel, Intel, Motorola, Samsung and Nokia will be there showcasing the technology and demonstrating all parts of the ecosystem.
Sprint's CTO and President of 4G Mobile Broadband Barry West will also be at 3GSM to champion the technology. Last year in Barcelona, I talked with West. I was curious as to why the CTO of a CDMA carrier would be at a GSM conference. At that time, he was just talking to various vendors and weighing all the technology options for the company's 2.5 GHz spectrum. But West definitely had his eye on WiMAX and was impressed with its potential. Fast forward to a year later and Sprint is now committed to deploying WiMAX and has lined up several vendors.
Sprint may be one of the most widely touted carriers planning to deploy WiMAX but it certainly isn't alone. Richard Lowe, president, mobility and converged core networks at Nortel, says that WiMAX is gaining lots of clout with Latin American carriers and in markets such as Korea, Taiwan and even the U.K. "WiMAX is cheaper. The spectrum is not costing as much as what carriers paid for UMTS spectrum and there are not the same barriers to entry," Lowe says. Although Nortel wasn't one of the vendors selected by Sprint, Lowe says that the company is making headway with other large operators, including some non-traditional carriers. In addition, Lowe touted Nortel's portfolio of OFDM and MIMO patents, which he believes will put the company in a favorable position long-term.
I'm sure that next week's 3GSM World Congress news will be dominated by technology developments in HSUPA, LTE and more. But keep an eye out for buzz about WiMAX. I think you may be surprised by how much it's grown over the past year. -Sue
P.S. Be sure to check out our exclusive 3GSM coverage over at the FierceWireless website all week.