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Summary:

WiMAX, the wireless broadband technology, ended up having a decent 2009, with 519 network deployments. Some of the technology’s backers, such as Russia’s Yota, reached breakeven, proving that WiMAX is viable outside the US. In 2010, WiMAX carriers will see competition from LTE operators.

worldwimaxmap.gif

No disrespect to Clearwire, but I’ve long maintained that the future of WiMAX, the wireless broadband technology is outside of the U.S. The end of 2009 report issued by The WiMAX Forum has only reaffirmed my belief. According to the report:

* There are 519 wireless broadband Internet deployments based upon WiMAX in 146 countries around the world.
* 112 of these deployments came in 2009.
* There are 95 WiMAX networks deployed by 2G mobile operators.
* Yota, a Russian WiMAX operator, now has 250,000 active commercial users and has broken even as a business.
* Clearwire has over half a million subscribers.
* Huawei, Airspan Networks, Cisco and Alvarion are key suppliers of WiMAX gear, while Intel and Beceem Communications are leading WiMAX chip suppliers.
* Nokia, Nortel and Alcatel-Lucent are three companies that have beaten a hasty retreat from the WiMAX equipment business.

In the U.S., WiMAX could stage a stunning comeback, thanks to the many millions of dollars being given away as part of the broadband stimulus program. According to some estimates, nearly 300 WiMAX applications were submitted for the funds, about 25 percent of the total applications, or about $1.6 billion.

From the looks of it, in 2010, WiMAX carriers will see competition from LTE operators, which are slowly rolling out their networks.

Map courtesy of WiMAX forum. The red pins represent networks based on 802.16d technologies while 802.16e technology-based networks are represented by the blue pins.

  1. Om,

    Most of these are FIXED WiMax whereas ClearWire is more of a 4G mobile play.

    I feel, and always have felt, that the Fixed Wireless play (ala Covad in the Bay Area and elsewhere) is where the broadband stimulus money will end up.

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    1. I agree — the funding is going to end up with fixed WiMAX guys and hopefully they combine that with WiFi to fire up some local hot spots as part of providing stimulus :-)

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      1. Why would you put in fixed if the mobile gear (16e) is about the same cost? Plus it gives you the benefit of not having to do truck rolls since the CPE can self-configure… even Towerstream is moving to mobile version of WiMAX for this reason. Not for mobility but for easier end-user deployment.

        So maybe… a “fixed” biz plan as in home/biz DSL replacement but using mobile gear to do so? That makes sense, esp in rural areas.

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  2. WiMAX as a 4G alternative to LTE (or any other FDD focused technology) was never seriously in the running for the next technology for AT&T/Verizon. QUALCOMM’s UMB had more of a chance – and may have been a better choice than LTE – than WiMAX, with it’s TDD roots did. The fact that there was a FDD version of WiMAX (just as there’s a TDD version of LTE) was insufficient to convince to convince sumo class carriers to take the gamble. Moreover, they don’t really need it today anyway, as HSPA+ will provide as much speed as they truly need for years.

    WiMAX is being deployed where it’s needed and makes sense – for folks that need real broadband today and don’t want to wait for a fixed (fiber/hfc) plant to be installed. Not only was 802.16 developed for CLECs years ago as a fixed technoloy (and later adapted to mobility), but was done so IEEE style with little work done on the higher layers so critical for great mobile performance..not that there’s anything wrong with that. That was the original goal and the technology was well designed for that.

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  3. Some of these subscriber numbers are a bit fuzzy. The Forum is claiming over 10m WIMAX subs at year end 2010. Yet Motorola, with around 20% market share in 16e says they have shipped their 1 millionth modem, which implied around 5 to 6 million 16e modems shipped. Some are in stock, perhaps 60 to 75% in service – leading to maybe 4m 16 e users worlwide. This lines up fairly well with Beceems claims for shipments and market share (1m in 1H 2009 with 60% share).

    So my conclusion is that the 10m WIMAX users claimed by the dorum are about 60% fixed (meaning rev D) and 40% “mobile” (rev E), even though the majority of the “mobile” users are actually stationary (desktop or bolted down external antenna users). Only Yota and Clearwire are providing a majority mobile service, and even that is more accuratly “portable” rather than mobile.

    Still, that is remarkable adoption over the past 2 years, and far more rapid, for example, than either GSM or CDMA in the 90s.

    To the point raised by “spassmeister”, HSPA and HSPA+ do have the theoretical performance to avoid the need for LTE or WiMAX, but in practice, most of the power and codes in CDMA get allocated to voice, with data getting whatever is left. The result is that HSPA tends to provide about 20% of the claimed performance in the real world. This is one reason why US carriers chose EV-DO over 1xEV-DV, which had the same issues. The only way to solve it is to allocated HSPA channels solely to data, which means more spectrum. If you are going to do that, perhaps a 4G technology makes more sense than more spending on 3G?

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  4. Wimax is here and LTE is on its way, but has any one thought of Wimax II (802.16m), which is slated to negate any of the advantages LTE might have over Wimax. Wimax II has theoretical speeds of 300Mbs to 1Gbs and will be available around the same time LTE is deployed. On another note, if GSM and CDMA were able to co-exist why do you think WiMAX and LTE won’t? Sprint’s upgrade to WiMAX will save the company billions of dollars every year in Backhaul operating expenses. Also with a virtual monopoly of the 2.5Ghz spectrum and close 150Mhz of spectrum in most US cities the future bodes well for Sprint/Clearwire.

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