Qualcomm’s Lauer Disses WiMAX


We thought Qualcomm might be finally embracing WiMAX, given its recent purchase of TeleCIS’ mobile WiMAX assets. Not so much. Len Lauer, Qualcomm’s Executive Vice President and Group president, gave WiMAX the smackdown at the Wireless Innovations conference on Wednesday.

Lauer said WiMAX is more expensive to deploy than cellular networks, while cellular can provide the equivalent bandwidth. He also pointed to poor early reviews of South Korea’s network as an example of why the technology isn’t all that “revolutionary.” Harsh, though not unexpected since Qualcomm’s whole reason for existence is CDMA and WCDMA.

Ironically, Lauer was the CTOO at Sprint around the time the company made its decision to deploy a WiMAX network. Was it a bone of contention for him then? Who knows. Here are some of the good bits from his anti-WiMAX speech:

On WiMAX vs cellular speeds:

There’s a lot of talk about WiMAX, as a great revolution in the wireless industry. The fact is, it is not a revolution as far as architecture. Whether it’s CDMA or WCDMA technology, there is a tremendous amount of bandwidth that is being delivered in these architectures. When I say bandwidth, on the down link it can run 2 to 4 to 6 to 8 mbps per second and that is similar to what we are getting with cable modems throughout the world. It’s an assertion that WiMAX can only deliver these speeds, and you can’t do that with WCDMA and CDMA. In fact you can.

On WiMAX cost:

The second assertion on WiMAX is that it is very low cost. Well our view, and we think we know architecture pretty well, is that WiMAX is actually a higher cost to deploy than a WCDMA or CDMA2000 network. We see it as having cost disadvantages.

On WiMAX bad reviews:

In terms of performance characteristics, were are willing to compete with WiMAX any day of the week. . . If you look at it now in South Korea there a number of press articles written that the results are very disappointing, they only have a few thousand users. But if you look at CDMA or WCDMA where there are hundreds of thousands to millions of users.


Raj Sharma

Hi All,
In fact there are absolutely no advantages of WiMAX over HSPA (I only know HSPA), while HSPA:

  1. Enormous economy of scale advantage for WCDMA/HSPA and 4 years ahead, stable and proven.

  2. Data Rates: Often WiMAx projects higher rates than HSPA (e.g. 70Mbps), but this is not apple-to-apple comparison, Here WiMAX is comparing its speeds of 2009 with HSPA’s today’s speeds, while R8 Evolved HSPA (available in 2009 as well with simple upgardes of current HSPA) has higher spectral efficiency than WiMAX. So if we compare technologies at same time line, HSPA proves to be better than HSPA at close to 2 bits per Hz per sector, while WiMAX at 1.75 bits per Hz in downlink.

  3. Coverage: WiMAX, working on TDD (power is thrown at intervals), loses considerably on the distance the signal can cover. Together with other gains available in HSPA, HSPA has many dB (upto 10 dB in many cases) advantages over WiMAX, considering the spectrum difference also, the mobile WiMAX will need upto 4 times more sites than HSPA, means four times more money in site infrastucture and rents.

  4. Its OFDM based uplinks not only eats up the power of handsets quickly but also lowers power vailable for coverage in uplink.

So what Lauer said is absolutely right that WiMAX is more expensive to deploy than cellular networks.

Raj Sharma/INDIA

John Holland

my 2 cents worth…..20 years in telecoms 2 of which were spent loosing money having belived the WiMAX hype…. Doh I should really have known better!

WiMAX… yup it has a good air interface (OFDM) but
-It is not a complete architecture like GSM/WCDMA etc
-Depending on usage it delivers speeds only slightly greater than HSPA
-It’s in the wrong spectrum bands >2Ghz. (this means you need to deploy many more base stations maybe 3-4 times as much as EVDO or HSPA in 850Mhz or 1.5-2.5 times as much as EVDO or HSPA in 1900. As 70% of your network build is the cost of towers and roof space build & Rental they would need to pay a company to take it if it was to make business sense.
-It has a tiny footprint in comparison to EVDO or HSPA so much smaller economy of scale

All in all EVDO nor HSPA beats it commercially and technically (end to end. The technical advantages are marginal.



Hi all, and excuse my ignorance: are there any serious proponents out there of Fixed-WiMAX in urban areas (ie., where FTTH is already available) to provide IPTV, VoD, DSL, etc…? Or are we referring to rural environment only?

And an additional question: if a GSM network requires 100 base stations to provide coverage to a certain area:
(i) how many base stations will you require to provide Fixed-WiMAX (802.16d) coverage?
(ii) how many base stations will you require to provide Mobile-WiMAX (802.16e) coverage?
(iii) is a Fixed-WiMAX base station reusable for Mobile-WiMAX?


Love Ymax!

This statement “they only have a few thousand users” makes me laugh.
Hello!! Sure CDMA has more user after many years being in the market.In fact, number of Korea WiBro users sounds impressive after such a short time. Time proves that Wimax has cost and quality advantage.
If Wimax is not attractive, So why Qcom is trying to acquire two fxied and mobile wimax corporations!! I beleive Qcom knows that Wimax is a big threat against CDMA and that’s why they are trying to be in the game and moving under radar not to damage CDMA royalty credit.Once this old RF guru said that not many beleived CDMA in the last decade,time proved them wrong, now history repeats for Wimax! and it’s funny Qcom is taking the opposite role this time.


Everyone is supporting OFDMA based architectures for next generation wireless and WiMAX delivers the first OFDMA IP-based platform. It is then a question of market control. Qualcomm is not very comfortablw with WiMAX because it will not be the only player to dominate as they have done in the past. So, Len tries to badmouth WiMAX to undermine the success of this technology and in parallel amasses OFDMA IP to get a piece of the pie if all of his efforts fail and the market takes off. There were many non-believers of WiFi a few years ago and guess what happened, they were proven wrong.


Preach the truth, not your paycheck. Lose your credibility and I won’t listen to another word you say.


Len is such a joke. He screams wimax is the best thing while at Sprint and now he disses it… can’t blame him though, you speak what your paycheck requires.

Also, his comments are just ridiculous.”In terms of performance characteristics, were are willing to compete with WiMAX any day of the week”

So he starts to talk about performance of wimax and then goes straight to:
“they only have a few thousand users. But if you look at CDMA or WCDMA where there are hundreds of thousands to millions of users.”

He just bashes it on number of users as opposed to the actual performance.

Whatever Len, i can’t blame you though. Speak up when your paycheck depends on it.


No tears when Ken left Sprint. His stance on WiMAX now only makes me laugh. Thanks Ken.. I needed that.

Paul Grim

802.20 and 802.16 (WiMax) are both based on OFDM, but 802.20 was created from the start for mobility, whereas WiMax started out life as a fixed access technology. When 802.20 stalled out (Flarion and others were promoting it, but Qualcomm stymied it), people started pushing mobile WiMax instead (802.16e and now m). 802.20 is in semi-permanent hiatus at this point, and QCOM is now focusing its OFDM efforts in the 3GPP2 standards body with UMB rather than in the IEEE.


Minor clarification. Lauer was COO of Sprint Nextel, not CTO. He’s a business guy who understands technology, not the other way around.

Anand Kumar


And what happened to 802.20 and how it is different from WiMAX?

Please educate me.


Paul Grim


The TeleCIS deal was more about Qualcomm’s relentless pursuit of OFDM IP than about backing WiMax. It helps buttress UMB (like Flarion’s IP and Airgo’s IP does), and ensures a nice potential royalty stream a la W-CDMA just in case WiMax gets real traction.

I agree the irony of seeing Lauer bashing WiMax is thick given his last job position.

The other irony is how Qualcomm and the CDMA Association is now effectively backing an OFDM-based standard in UMB (despite the pro-CDMA rhetoric), while the GSMA is backing HSPA as a CDMA-based one. Wonders never cease…

More on this at http://venturebeat.com/2007/04/26/is-wimax-like-the-tragic-barbaro/

Om Malik


you gotta use a pseudonym or email address (even a fake one) that doesn’t look like spam. Spam filters are here to stay and that is unfortunately the reality of blogging comment systems of today.


PS. “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” Just posted the comment above and noticed that comments on GigaOM are moderated? ouch… that is so 18th century.

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