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WiMAX appears to have been deployed at a slower rate than many pudits expected.  Especially Mobile WiMAX. Does this open a window for LTE?

Well it might, if two conditions are fulfilled: 1) that LTE can accelerate, and 2) that LTE and WiMAX are competitive. Let's look at these.......

LTE is in trials mode. This is what happens when a new technology is developed, but is not yet "productized" - big service providers with large budgets test it out to see if it will perform as well as promised. Later, the standards are finalized, and chip manufacturers finish their designs. Then the chips are shipped in "engineering sample" quantities to the infrastructure vendors, who build prototypes. Sometimes this leads to more field trials.

Meanwhile, vendors design and build finished products, together with the software. The first 80% of the code takes the first 80% of the schedule to create; the last 20% takes the other 80% to finish. Then the code goes into QA, which takes 3 to 6 months. Then the product is ready to ship for first customer application, VO, FOA, beta tests (whatever you want to call it). This whole cycle is typically 18 to 24 months long. It takes 6 to 12 months to design, build and test a commercial network, so add another year. And we haven't yet reached step 2.

So call me a skeptic. LTE will not be seen in a fully commercial setting until late 2011.

Is LTE competitive with WiMAX? In Western Europe, perhaps, where 2.5GHz spectrum is allocated for UMTS/HSPA expansion, and is also suited for Mobile WiMAX. In the USA and Canada, 2.5 GHz is largely owned by Sprint/Nextel/Xohm/Clearwire, and Innukshuk/Rogers/Bell. No room for HSPA there! All the rest of the world uses 2.3, 3.3 or 3.5 GHz for WiMAX, and 450, 850, 900, 1.8, 1.9 and 2.0 spectrum for cellular/mobile service.

Most WiMAX operators come from the fixed arena with specific spectrum. Most LTE interest is coming from mobility providers with cellular spectrum. There is very little overlap........ Apples and Oranges, I say. LTE and WiMAX are not playing the same game on the same field.  Asking which one will win is like asking if the San Francisco 49's could beat Manchester United at shuffleboard.

1 Comment

There are 2 major issues. One is that ISPs do not have experience in deploying large scale wireless solutions like WiMAX network should be, and mobile operators are not very much familiar with IP backhaul and IT solutions. Brave ISP with a wish and financial potential to build large (nationwide) WiMAX network could make a profit. So, although there was a lot of talking about ICT, it still looks like that we have small number of ICT experts and still large number of IT and telecommunication experts.

There is a time until LTE becomes more present, at least 3-4 years, but the question is for what services is WiMAX best suited? Customers are rarely attracted by technology. They always look at services that are offered and expenses.

There are IP based services, mobile IP services, existing services etc. that could be offered. Also, with Clearwire WiMAX network equipment interoperability will be put on completely different (usable) level and only question is if there is enough of spectrum to support broadband needs of potential customers in a long term?

WiMAX will not compete with LTE since many mobile operators do have large credit lines and loans from mobile equipment vendors and simply are not willing to jeopardize their existing relationship. WiMAX will have its own market.

WiMAX operators should be focused in getting steady customer base, to provide mobility and later roaming, as well as mobile IP services.

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