Carl Ford : 4G Wireless Evolution
Carl Ford
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WiMAX: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times...

November 20, 2008

A new report has just come out from Informa, and the findings have the report's author channeling Dickens.   "It's the best and worst of times for WiMAX," says Mike Roberts, principal analyst at Informa, and author of WiMAX Broadband Convergence: Emerging Fixed, Portable & Mobile Internet Markets - 2nd Edition.   According to Roberts:   WiMAX is a tale of two markets - one being WiMAX as an emerging technology gaining significant momentum in the last year, and the other being the larger converging broadband market, where the runaway success of rival mobile broadband system HSDPA and the acceleration of LTE threatens the opportunity for WiMAX in some markets.   On the WiMAX side of the ledger, we find the launch of services by major operators such as Sprint/Clearwire, commitments to WiMAX by major proponents such as Google, and the long-awaited arrival of WiMAX notebooks and other devices.   On the flip side, HSDPA has reportedly become a runaway success in many markets worldwide, and emerging LTE technology is ramping up and has secured the support of many major mobile operators.   Of course it remains to be seen what will be written in the final chapter of this "tale of two markets." It's clear that we all have great expectations, and while in telecom there is always ample opportunity for at least two market entrants, it's a distinct possibility that for one of these two combatants, it will indeed be a bleak house.    

Taking a Deeper Look at the Clearwire Deal -- Again

November 24, 2008

With the shareholder approval finally taken care of, the massive deal to build a new nationwide WiMax network under the Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR) name can (finally!) now begin in earnest. While those of us who have been following the events over the past year know pretty much what is on Clearwire's immediate to-do list, for those who are playing catch-up may we suggest you order the new, updated version of our WiMax report, which includes a comprehensive study of the "new" Clearwire WiMax deal and its $3.2 billion of investment from a group that includes Google, Comcast, Intel and Time Warner Cable.

When you read the report you will learn:

-- The new opportunities and challenges for Clearwire's national focus, which is a departure from previous plans

-- The motivations for Google's $500 million investment, which go beyond business goals for search and mobility to include public-policy goals

-- Why the big telcos, AT&T and Verizon, may not see WiMax as a prime competitor (even as they step up marketing and lobbying efforts to make life harder for WiMax)

-- Why cable providers like Comcast may be looking to WiMax to expand their user footprint beyond its current regulatory limits

The report also contains a WiMax technical and historical backgrounder, as well as an updated look at the WiMax business opportunities for enterprises, investors and entrepreneurs in markets including mobile Internet businesses, software development, and mobile device manufacturing. Titled "Game On, WiMax! Why the "new" Clearwire gives WiMax its best chance at success in the U.S.

Clearwire Mum on Xohm Launches, Says LTE a Possibility

December 1, 2008

The new Clearwire just concluded its first conference call with analysts and press types, and while some questions did get answered there were more questions raised by the quick interaction, including a declaration that Clearwire might switch from WiMax to Long Term Evolution (LTE) as a technology base sometime in the future.

While declaring mobile WiMax as the best technology currently available for 4G services, Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff said that LTE (which has been embraced by AT&T and Verizon for their respective 4G wireless data plans) will most likely gain some traction, and as such will be considered as a possible future alternative for Clearwire.

"Mobile WiMax and LTE have a lot in common," said Wolff, who added that Clearwire will build its network infrastructure in such a fashion that will allow the company to move to, or add LTE technology "if we decide it makes sense to do so."

While such a switch would be at least two or three years in the future, some more immediate Clearwire concerns -- including the pending launches of WiMax services in Chicago and Washington, D.C. -- were put on hold, at least until the company's new board of directors can convene for strategic talks. Though Clearwire merger partner Sprint had talked confidently of launching its Xohm-branded services in Chicago and D.C. before the end of 2008, Wolff said Monday that the company didn't have any launch news to share.

"We need to get together with the new board and walk the board through [the planned network launches]," Wolff said.

It's Clear and out of the Xohm!

December 2, 2008

The press conference celebrating the completion of the Clearwire deal made news on a number of fronts  The first was that Xohm was gone. The new name is "Clear", which is at least that when it comes to spelling.

No longer waiting to be free, CEO Ben Wolff explained that the company was going to deliver an Open network that had the benefit of more spectrum than their competitiors combined.

The more amazing turn of events was the discussion that LTE Advanced maybe in the cards for Clearwire afterall.  This was also hedged by the selling of dual mode 3G / 4G WiMAX devices sometimes next year with Sprint.
While the difference between WiMAX and LTE Advance is minor the statement that LTE can be part of their future is a concession that they may not be able to deliver the WiMAX mobility devices at the price points they want.

While the vision is much like the announcements of Level 3 in the late 90s, the 3.2 Billion investment comes from their investors who intend to wholesale their services Brighthouse, Comcast, Google, Intel, Sprint, and Time Warner.
What should be particularly interesting is the possibility of Google Android devices that are not specifically phones.

Clearwire's Wolff: 'Full Speed Ahead' with WiMax

December 6, 2008

Despite what you may have read, heard or thought, there is no chance of Clearwire Corp. (NASDAQ: CLWRD) abandoning WiMax technology anytime soon. Though Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff did talk Monday about the possibility of adding support for Long Term Evolution (LTE) to Clearwire's technology mix sometime in the future, in an interview Thursday morning Wolff left no doubt that Clearwire is solidly behind WiMax, and considers it the best (and only) 4G wireless technology currently available for deployment.

"We have no doubts that we made the right decision" to pick WiMax as the technology for its wireless network rollout, said Wolff in a phone interview. "We are going full-speed ahead with WiMax. It offers a more robust [Internet] experience, at a more economic price point, than any other technology available today."

The confusion over Clearwire's commitment to WiMax came in the wake of a Monday conference call, which was used mainly to report the details of the completion of the merger of Clearwire with Sprint's WiMax assets, and the new branding of its "Clear" WiMax services. At one point in the call, Wolff talked briefly about the possibility of Clearwire adding support for LTE in the future, should the standard become widely adopted and deployed.

Consumer Guide to WiMax: Now Free!

December 8, 2008

Want a detailed explanation of the recent launch of WiMax services in Baltimore, and how WiMax's combination of speed, mobility, and innovative pricing might satisfy the growing consumer demand for an always-on Internet experience? Then download the Sidecut Reports Consumer Guide to WiMax, now available for free download from the Sidecut Reports site.

Prepared in an easy-to-read style with deep background material for those who may not have understood WiMax before, the 22-page report provides a thorough explanation of the technology, devices, applications and consumer use of the country's newest form of wireless broadband access service.

As the new Clearwire starts rolling out its service markets in 2009, consumers and small business users alike can use the guide to help determine how they might best take advantage of the introduction of "4G" wireless Internet access when it comes to their hometown.

The free report download also serves as the official kickoff for the Sidecut Reports WiMaxWeek weekly newsletter, a convenient way to stay abreast of all our blog posts from the week, as well as top WiMax news from across the Web and special offers from Sidecut Reports. Stay tuned for more news from Sidecut Reports and our plans for 2009, which is shaping up to be a big year for WiMax in the U.S. marketplace.

The Sprint WiMax/3G Card: (Almost) Ready to Roam

December 19, 2008

The question about how WiMax provider Clearwire would answer the national-roaming question got a little bit clearer Wednesday, when Sprint officially announced its long-promised 3G/4G hybrid device, a USB dongle that lets a laptop user connect to both Clearwire's WiMax and Sprint's 3G cellular networks.

For right now, that former option means one city -- Baltimore -- where the service previously known as Xohm has been running since September. But Todd Rowley, vice president of Sprint's 4G business unit, told us Wednesday that the new device will work in all the networks being readied by the new Clearwire, starting with Portland, Ore., sometime "by the end of Q1."

Without getting too much into specifics, it isn't the technology holding the card back but Sprint's back-end ability to support it on the "Clear" networks -- like Portland's, whi  ch is set to publicly launch Jan. 6. So yes, Rowley said, the device will eventually allow roaming users to link up with Clear WiMax networks wherever they may be launched, maybe not right when they launch but soon after.
In terms of value, the hybrid device is kind of a hybrid offering -- it's not as cheap as the straight-WiMax    offerings and it comes with the standard (for cellular data) two-year contract and early termination fees. You also can't use the 3G service for VoIP calls (and it ha  s bandwidth restrictions), though Skype over the 4G service should work just fine, Rowley said.

What does it say about Patents

December 22, 2008

Adaptix filed against Clearwire / Sprint on the subject of the WiMAX patents. 

I do not know enough about the case to be useful and the history of infringement has lots of legitimate complaints, but in general when a vendor sues a service provider the relationship is strained.

Their have been some great patents associated with some dog products.  In my brief history on remote access I was very impressed with how Alcatel-Lucent kept acquiring all the good patents from companies that were clever but could not survive. (Does anyone remember Farallon?)

My sense is that Adaptix has put itself in play with this patent lawsuit.  If they relationship is strainged and they are not the vendor of choice, assuming no malice, the patents are more valuable then the product. 

On the other hand, it may be that Adaptix has a legitimate concern that can be addressed with the proper attention.

My own hope is this gets resolved soon.

Nokia Kills Production of WIMAX Device

January 8, 2009

It appears that Nokia has ended production of its only mobile device it had designed for WiMAX. According to an item on ARS Technica, one possibility for Nokia canceling its N810 WiMAX Edition Tablet is that "WiMAX's current coverage area is far too small to sustain a niche device." And on the industry blog, Mobile Burn, concurred, saying that "the abrupt cancellation is reportedly due to the slow WiMAX roll out in the USA." Mobile Burn also notes that "distributors have apparently been asked to send any remaining stock back to Nokia."

Azimuth Looks Ahead After Successful 2008

January 13, 2009

Azimuth Systems, Inc., is on a good run. The company today announced that it had reached a number of major milestones marking the company's continued growth in the broadband wireless industry over the past year, increasing its channel emulator revenue by over 30%, increasing its customer base by more than 25%, (including international growth), and the formation of several partnerships with companies and organizations in the broadband wireless space.   Azimuth provides wireless broadband test equipment and channel emulators for Wi-Fi, WiMAX, LTE and 2G/3G cellular technologies.   Jim Iuliano, Azimuth's CEO was understandably pleased:   "Over the course of our history, Azimuth has excelled at adapting to meet the needs of advanced technology testing for the delivery of high-speed wireless voice, data and video services. As we welcome 2009, we hope to build upon this strength and continue to provide our customers with reliable test equipment and channel emulators designed to meet the needs of the latest generation of wireless, carrier-grade networks and solutions for Wi-Fi, WiMAX, LTE and 2G/3G cellular technologies."
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