Live from WiMAX World: 133M WiMAX users by 2012

CHICAGO-- The U.S. economy may be in shambles but that didn't deter swarms of WiMAX proponents from converging in Chicago for the 5th Annual WiMAX World conference. During the opening session, WiMAX Forum President Ron Resnick touted the progress WiMAX has made in various markets, saying that more than 100 networks worldwide are in commercial deployment. He also said that the industry group predicts there will be 133 million WiMAX users by 2012.

But he noted that there are some challenges ahead--particularly roaming. The WiMAX Forum has been working on this issue and Resnick said the group will introduce a roaming readiness program in December where it will work in conjunction with roaming clearinghouses (such as iPass) to develop roaming specifications for all WiMAX operators.

WiMAX may have had great growth overseas but all eyes at the conference are on the U.S. WiMAX players. In particular Clearwire, which earlier this year announced a joint venture with Sprint's WiMAX business to create the "new" Clearwire. That joint venture is expected to close by year-end. Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff told the WiMAX World audience this morning that his company currently covers 16 million POPs and has about 500,000 subscribers using its "pre-WiMAX" service. He added that nearly one-third of those customers have access to cable and DSL and that about 20 percent still keep their wireline broadband service even though they are subscribing to Clearwire.

He described the company's future relationship with cable companies such as Comcast and Time Warner (both of which are investors in the "new" Clearwire) as being both competitors and collaborators. "They will resell services to their customers and so will we," Wolff said.  

Like Time Warner and Comcast, Google is also an investor in the new Clearwire. Wolff said that he envisions Clearwire taking advantage of that relationship by using the Android platform in its devices. "We will embrace this platform," he said. In addition, he said that Clearwire will likely take advantage of Google's search platform and advertising model.

Related stories:
Clearwire posts Q2 loss, says Clearwire/Sprint merger on target
Clearwire expects 30 million subs by 2017

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