So there's been quite a bit of buzz this past few weeks about the potential demise of WiMAX.
First Nokia stopped production of their WiMAX device, then there was some news about Intel writing off their entire investment in the venture with Clearwire... It was covered all over TMCnet, but Rich summed it up nicely in his post: The Trillion Dollar Question - Is WiMAX Dying?
Now, LTE has its proponents and WiMAX has its detractors, but Carl Ford, writing on the 4GWE blog
points out the following:
While many want me to point to LTE as the clear winner, I don't think this would be a sign of WiMAX's apocalypse. I instead see this as a prudent move on Nortel's part to emphasize the pieces of the solutions they own. Partnerships in Telecom are pretty easily forced by the carriers, and the real story is that no carrier is forcing Nortel to support WiMAX.
This maybe proof that WiMAX is in trouble, but it's more likely proof that the legacy Nortel customers are not looking for Nortel to go into new areas with them.
So I asked Scenna Tabesh, director of marketing communications for the WiMAX Forum, for some insight into the Nortel situation as well as the future co-existence of the two 4G approaches, LTE and WiMAX. Tabesh's thoughts appear in italics:
What does it mean to the WiMAX community that Nortel is reportedly jettisoning its Alvarion-based WiMAX offering?
No one is immunized from the global financial crisis. While the WiMAX industry anticipates a slowdown in general, WiMAX Forum still believes that at least 100 more WiMAX operators will launch commercial services in 2009. This number was expected to be higher; however, the market turmoil caused investors to become more cautious and focus on tighter risk management. Despite a tightening in investment, companies with sound business models and proven technologies, such as WiMAX, will still obtain funding during this challenging time. Meantime, we continue to be encouraged by the fact that the WiMAX industry has been growing at a reasonable pace since 2007. Toward this end, there were about 200 WiMAX networks deployed in 2008 alone. WiMAX Forum leadership surrounding the evolution of technology standards and introduction of Mobile WiMAX Certified products are on track, with the active support of the global telecommunications/wireless ecosystem.
Is there room in the market for two competing technologies (LTE & WiMAX)?
The WiMAX Forum believes the two technologies will co-exist. WiMAX is included in the IMT-2000 family of mobile wireless interface standards and is supported by a broad, open and innovative ecosystem including more than 500 member companies in the WiMAX Forum. This open ecosystem is one of the many strengths of WiMAX - it brings the flexibility of the computing industry model to the mobile world. This includes an open IPR model led by the Open Patent Alliance. Toward this end, WiMAX has already established itself in the 3.5 GHz band with deployments in every region. This is in addition to large 2.5 GHz deployments in major markets such as the US, Japan, and India. As an established technology - WiMAX is here now. There are 407 WiMAX deployments in 133 countries, over 480 WiMAX-enabled devices in development by over 80 suppliers, and there are more major WiMAX spectrum auctions on the horizon (India, Argentina, the UK, etc.).
Conversely, LTE currently has zero deployments. While marketed as an "evolution," LTE networks are a completely new upgrade. They require new infrastructure and new spectrum. While WiMAX is already in deployment, new spectrum or the re-farming of wide swaths of 2G spectrum will be necessary to free up spectrum to deploy LTE and take advantage of the wider channel bandwidths that are supported. LTE will also take time to roll out, with deployments forecast to reach limited adoption by 2012. LTE networks will require new client devices and service providers will need to purchase new radio access network (RAN) equipment in addition to upgrading their core networks to handle additional IP-based traffic.
The bottom line is this - it's still too early to bury the survivors so to speak. This market is just now getting its legs, it's early days for certain. It's a time for competing technologies, and for vendors to make and break alliances. It's that exciting time where everything is possible and yet we need to proceed cautiously.
If you're new to this market -- and most everyone is -- it makes sense to find a good source of education, to get a better understanding of the trends, vendors, politics... etc... that are driving this market today and will in the end determine the eventual "winners."
That education is available at the 4GWE Conference
, which is taking place in Miami Beach next week (February 2-4) in Miami Beach.