Waxing, Waning, WiMAX

Carl Ford : 4G Wireless Evolution
Carl Ford
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Waxing, Waning, WiMAX

Rich has a great post on his blog about the Nokia 800 and it's WiMAX sister the 810.  These tablets were great little devices, and it's a shame that Nokia has moved away from the 810, but does that mean that WiMAX is dead and its all LTE?

Here are some anecdotal points to think about? 

1) A Nokia employee speaking at PTC in regards to the iPhone said we make 3000 different models for our customers the carriers. And they do but it's a baseline design with modifications for the carriers who all see themselves as unique. Nokia has been having a lot of internal debate about trying to have a more direct relationship with the end user.  With the economy being this bad, the battle seems to be in favor of keeping the existing carriers happy.

2) Intel in its earnings wrote down their billion-dollar investment in Clearwire.  Now most of that was a paper transaction representing the lack of interest in the stock  (CLWR) on Wall Street.   Time Warner also impaired their valuation.  The question is it a sign of the times or a sign of their moving away from WiMAX.

3) Intel's vision for WiMAX has been about a category they call Mobile Internet Devices [MID] and they showed some prototypes in the past that were the equivalent of auto show dream cars.  But they never got the commitment to production. Asus for example in their earnings were not expecting significant impact from the MID products.

4) Did we happen to mention that Clearwire admitted it was willing to consider deploying LTE in the future?

So what is the major lesson here?

I think the issue is the WiMAX vision is having problems differentiating from LTE.  They use the same technology at the core so for most people it's not an interesting debate.

The next part of the problem is the compelling story for WiMAX is cheaper Internet. People they do not think of their wireless service as cheaper Internet, they consider it voice and text.  In many countries WiMAX has been only a data play while LTE gets to be all things mobile. Like the Vonage dilemma of reaching consumers you end up competing in the other guy's turf, and the other guy has a mature product line.

This is the current state of affairs, but it does not have to be end story.
4G Wireless Evolution is focused the places where innovators will leap frog the existing market, "if you build it they will come" is not the phrase for this century.

To intensify WiMAX's potential it needs to embrace the aspects of Internet not attractive to existing cellular services such as enterprise driven FMC, Unlicensed Spectrum and media neutral solutions such as video and voice over IP.

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