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WiMAX Deployment Needs Pico-Sized Help

When it comes to WiMAX, towers might not be the only deployment option, according to Richard Keith, who leads Motorola’s wireless broadband and strategy. Keith expects that carrier-owned microcells and picocells placed on buildings will be part of WiMAX networks in addition to towers.

“With 4G, most of the networks are higher frequency, and that means more opportunity for holes, and less opportunity to penetrate buildings,” says Keith, whom I spoke with in conjunction with this week’s WiMAX World conference. “At the same time, the business model works because you have a product in a micro- or picocell that you can monetize over a few hundred people.”

I’ve heard this before in relation to LTE rollouts from a few equipment vendors, but those rollouts would include personal base stations, called femtocells, as part of their deployments as well. Keith isn’t sure that makes sense just yet, given that with femtocells a carrier could only monetize them over one or two users. That means any femtocell would have to be cheap enough for a carrier to deploy for only a couple of people or cheap enough for a consumer to buy on their own.

As for the success of WiMAX over 3G and 4G cellular technologies, Keith is waiting to see how open the carriers can become. He says if they try to keep their networks too buttoned down, it will be easier for consumers to gravitate toward WiMAX devices for a seamless broadband connection.

“It depends on how well carriers adapt to not being able to test every device running on their network. You have to accept transactions not knowing who subscribers are at the time.” Keith says. “That type of product approach is kind of chaotic, and we’ll see how carriers embrace it. If they do not, then we will move toward WiMAX.”

Openness is good, but if the devices aren’t there, then WiMAX doesn’t have a chance.

6 Responses to “WiMAX Deployment Needs Pico-Sized Help”

  1. Laurent

    The main reason there is a potential Femtocell market is that Mobile Service Providers (MSPs) are not able to shoulder the huge investment required for nationwide coverage and proper capacity to cope with the current and foreseen demand. Femtocell is a consumer electronic device that require no installation (Plug and play). MSPs have a huge incentive in deploying Femtocell in order to reduce the investment required for the macro cells and therefore are likely to heavily subsidize those devices. With the right ecosystem in place, economy of scale will bring unit price to $100 and lower (As Femto design get embedded in other devices such as IP set-top-box) MSPs should significantly improve their bottom line as operating cost are going down (The consumer will pay for electricity and backhaul which are some of the major cost of running a mobile network).

    Now for WiMAX, I am a bit confused with this article as I doubt there is a market for WiMAX Femto since most WiMAX device (Laptops mainly) will have both WiMAX and WiFi radio. Besides it would make more sense to sell a WiMAX CPE that would integrate WiFi as well and relay the Macro signal inside the building via WiFi.

    Might need to look closer into Motorola strategy but I am really skeptical.

  2. Jesse Kopelman


    Vendors and large customers want pay for coverage, but so far carriers generally refuse to support it. Carriers like control more than profits . . .