As One Door Opens for WiMAX, another Door Closes


According to a new report from In-Stat, the WiMax technology is facing increased competitive pressure that could hamper any further growth.

In their report, “Global WiMAX Subscribers, Base Stations, and Revenues,” In-Stat noted that the future for WiMAX is a “mixed bag” as other wireless technologies vie for market share. “In the past year, there have been positive developments in consumer devices, including smartphones that use WiMAX for data but revert to 3G airlinks for voice. On the other hand, in many regions regulators are postponing spectrum auctions; and several major digital communications companies are reducing their commitment to WiMAX or leaving the space altogether.”

It looks like while worldwide WiMAX subscription revenues to approach $30.2 billion in 2014, that major hardware vendors have announced they planned to stop WiMAX product developments.

A separate report from Maravedis also spelled some concern as to the future of WiMAX. The firm noted that while WiMAX operators served 7.2 million customers at the end of the first quarter, recent carrier defections from the standard have caused concerns. Russian carrier Yota plans to scrap its WiMAX deployment in favor of LTE, while domestically Clearwire was looking at possibly deploying other technologies.

I don’t get it. Clearwire just expanded their WiMAX services to all over DC on top of other major cities in the US. They are now considering different Wireless technology?

Maravedis reports carriers are worried about the perceived lack of commitment towards 802.16m. However despite the hype surrounding TD-LTE, they do not see much of an ecosystem in the near term.”

The firm added that carriers that have recently acquired spectrum licenses in markets like India may be forced to move ahead with WiMAX due to a lack of options in the short-term, but that eventual migration to the TD-LTE standard could prove a “significant challenge emerges regarding how to manage the millions of WiMAX device users.”

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About Elias Shams
I have been a serial entrepreneur in telecom and social media space for past 12 years or so. I hold a M.S. degree in Telecommunication Engineering from the George Washington University and a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland. I’ve lived and worked in many countries and cities including London England, Tehran Iran, Bonn Germany, Paris France, Alicante Spain, Delhi India, and my favorite of all Washington, DC of great US of A. Two of the greatest Washington, DC based companies I worked for and very proud of are Yurie Systems which was sold to Lucent in 1998 for $1.23 B and telezoo.com that I founded in 1999. I am currently the founder and awesomizer @ awesomize.me

6 Responses to As One Door Opens for WiMAX, another Door Closes

  1. Looking at the headlines of the latest Maravedis report like “7.2 Million BWA/WiMAX Subscribers Reached in Q1 2010” or “However, despite the hype surrounding TD-LTE, there isn’t much of an ecosystem in the near term” the doors for WiMAX don’t seem to be closed. Assuming decreasing prices for WiMAX infrastructure and devices, like dongles, being already cheaper than in 3G there are even additional incentives to go for it. Moreover, number of vendors are offering base stations that are upgradeable LTE, so if there are customers out there willing to subscribe decisions on deployments can be made. Ultimately the point is that we all would like to have a practical problem how to migrate a multi-million customer base, isn’t it ?

    • Elias Shams says:

      My prediction is LTE will fly in developed countries like US and Western EU, but WiMax will have higher demand in under developed nations like India, Africa, Asia, etc.

  2. As far as I have heard, LTE CAPEX ad OPEX are quite high compared to WiMAX.

  3. Todd C Mason says:

    Those that can afford to wait or simply don’t want to invest money into infrastructure at this time for whatever reason will say that they will adopt LTE (ie sit on their hands for the next couple years)

    Those who can’t afford to wait and need to deploy service now will choose WiMax.

    The current economic climate certainly isn’t helping WiMax.

  4. Fred Stein says:

    Is ti just me or do we always get mixed messages from WiMAX? Reaching $30B in 2014 sounds like great business. But when I read all the press today to find quantitative and qualitative data to validate that WiMAX is on track to this number, it’s not there.

    I would love to see Clearwire provide quarterly updates with a few simple metrics: # of customers covered by their WiMAX; Active subscribers; ARPU; and Churn. For extra credit, tell us how many customers use their WiMAX plans for phones, vs dongles; And how many full WiMAX voice and packet data mobile Smartphone subscribers.

    I really do like WiMAX. It’s just tough to ferret out what is really going on.

    • Cellular standards are determined by the major carrriers (Vodafone, Telefonica, Orange, TIM, DoCoMo, etc). Major carriers are highly risk adverse and so they tend to pursue the safe bet. That safe bet was LTE even before anyone really knew its capabilities. It was the successor to the GSM throne.

      WiMAX 802.16e also seemed to have certain issues regarding uplink budget, interference management, n=1 capabilities, mobile handoffs in an n=1 configuration, etc, that kept it from really being a destructive tech. 802.16m is supposed to be better but major carriers have pretty much all endorsed LTE already.

      Regarding cost, its true that WiMAX base stations are cheaper than LTE base stations but they’ve been around longer and i don’t know if over all network costs are lower for the same capacity and coverage. Furthermore, my understanding is that 802.16e spectral efficiency drops considerably in a loaded cell and then you still have the issue of the uplink budget, though i’ve seen some papers that claim to have work arounds for this.

      LTE is available, HSPA+ is available. 802.16e is available. It seems the latter is really being chosen for fixed wireless and for some portable or mobile 2-3 GHz deployments with limited coverage in certain emerging nations.

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