WiMax in 2010: Too little, too late?

WiMax has been promised "any day now" for years.

By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, Computerworld |  Mobile & Wireless, Clearwire, WiMax

Lori Sylvia, executive vice president of marketing at Red Bend Software Inc., which makes WiMax device-management software, thinks WiMax service delivery and infrastructure costs will need to decrease in order for WiMax to compete with DSL and cable. When all providers, no matter what technology they use, can provide multiple Mbit/sec. speeds, "then the buying criteria becomes like any other Internet service: coverage and cost," Sylvia said via e-mail.

Brough Turner, an independent wireless analyst and blogger, isn't optimistic. In an e-mail, Turner wrote, "The problem is WiMax products can never achieve the volumes associated with the GSM family of technologies (GSM, UMTS, HSPA, LTE). As a result, WiMax will always cost more to deploy, and WiMax handsets will be more expensive than comparable GSM family handsets. It doesn't matter if WiMax is 'better' than LTE or not, or that WiMax is ahead today. The installed base of GSM family technologies generates very high volumes for GSM family products. As those products migrate to LTE, LTE product volumes will drive costs well below WiMax costs."

It's not necessarily an either/or proposition, however. "In my opinion, LTE and WiMax will co-exist, as they are actually targeting different markets," said Schoolar of Current Analysis. "LTE for the most part is an extension of the current mobile ecosystem. It will primarily be used to do what we are doing today with 3G, but better. WiMax's primary market, however, will be more about fixed and portable services. As much as I hate to say it, WiMax really will be Wi-Fi on steroids. While WiMax's head start over LTE has diminished, I don't think it matters as much as people think, as the two technologies are running a separate race."

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, a Computerworld blogger, has been writing about technology since CP/M was the dominant desktop operating system. You can learn more about Steven and read some of his other stories on his Practical Technology site.

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