Blog Post

The Future of WiMAX Is Bleak: Analyst

[qi:___wimax] The future of WiMAX is pretty bleak in developed countries and as a result, equipment makers aren’t likely to sustain their investments in the space, according to a note out today by research firm Analysys Mason. The note calls out Cisco (s CSCO) and Motorola (s MOT) specifically. Motorola said earlier this year that it would stop making new investments in WiMAX equipment (it told me a few months back that it still supported the equipment, but that the R&D phase of intense investment was now over). And although Cisco did land a big contract to provide gear for Clearwire, so far Huawei appears to be the biggest contender in the WiMAX equipment market.

But analyst Terry Norman writes that Huawei is also focusing on Long Term Evolution, the GSM version of a 4G wireless network, possibly because WiMAX is played out. He writes:

Ericsson’s purchase of Nortel’s interests in CDMA and LTE will encourage CDMA operators to shift to LTE, creating greater acceptance of LTE in North America. Huawei is strongly promoting LTE and has recently opened up a new LTE laboratory in Richardson, Texas, where operators can familiarise themselves with the technology.

WiMAX, while a first mover when it came to delivering an all-IP network, had problems getting traction in developed countries because there wasn’t spectrum available for it. Now Norman argues that it’s too late for WiMAX in the developed world, as LTE deployments are only a few years away. Plus, he writes that from a technology perspective, LTE has caught up to WiMAX.  This leaves the developing world as WiMAX’s domain. And it leaves Clearwire (s clwr), which is building a WiMAX network, the odd operator out in the U.S.

17 Responses to “The Future of WiMAX Is Bleak: Analyst”

  1. Hey Stacey, Sprint announced wimax for Austin later this year. Being that you live there, have you heard anything on the build out? They must be upgrading towers at this time in order to do a 4th quarter launch. Any rumors, tower locations are anything?

  2. Existing 3G operators in mature markets will move to LTE and ignore WiMAX, save rare exceptions as ClearWire.

    WiMAX can have an edge for “Wireless DSL” in emerging countries where copper lines are scarce, and WiMAX can provide broadband without digging lines. The opportunity window could still be short, as 3G and HSDPA gets deployed in these markets too.

  3. Sterwen

    Don’t forget that LTE has 2 versions FDD and TDD. The TDD version is coming really head to head with WIMAX (that is also TDD meaning that the downlink path and uplink path share the frequency band).

    TDD version is pushed by China and will soon make some inroads in other countries. European operators are also interested and I have some rumours that India is also starting to consider LTE TDD.

    If China and some key European operators adopt LTE TDD (as a complement of LTE FDD or standalone), then there will be little space left for WIMAX even in emergent and developing countries.

    WIMAX will be left with Clearwire and a handfull of tier 3 operators focused on local broadband access: bleak future indeed!

    • Jesse Kopelman

      If TDD LTE actually becomes popular, that will be the end of WiMAX as a carrier technology. Popularity leads to low equipment pricing. Low equipment pricing leads to carrier switching horses. It would be trivial to laterally-upgrade your network from WiMAX to TDD LTE — a lot easier than going from GSM or CDMA.

  4. Stacy,
    These days I am surprised to see lots of different reports on WiMAX each counter other’s view. Earlier when I posted my blog on WiMAX future at, I realized the potential for WiMAX in India. But, now as per your report & research done by some firms, it shows that the future of WiMAX is bleak. How’s that? What’s truth? I do understand that there is spectrum issue going on in India & recently I came across a ET article, where ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) Chief denied more spectrum for WiMAX, but that doesn’t mean that firms should be focusing on LTE directly. Will you clear the confusion over WiMAX in Asia or developing countries?
    I am looking forward to see your detail report on WiMAX for developed countries.

  5. I’m not expert on the technical merits of WiMax vs. LTE, but I continue to hope for Clearwire/WiMax success for two reasons:

    1) Service will become available to me sooner as a Clearwire product than any LTE service.
    2) I’d rather someone other than the Cable/Telco duopoly provide an alternative.

  6. Swizzlestick

    “Long Term Evolution, the GSM version of a 4G wireless network”

    Um….what? It’s OFDM-based. Just because the standard is going through 3GPP doesn’t make it a “GSM version.”

    • Stacey Higginbotham

      You’re right it is OFDM-based but aside from the awkward phrasing, it is the 3GPP’s answer for 4G. That’s what I was getting at. Most poeple are more familiar with GSM rather than 3GPP.

  7. Paul Allen

    I’m surprised that there haven’t been many comments pointing out that the carriers who
    implement W-CDMA need LTE at all. Since HSPA+ promises 42M down and 22 up, why
    bother with a technology that suffers from multipath (LTE) vs one that takes advantage of
    multipath (any true cdma technology).

    • Jesse Kopelman

      You have it completely backwards. Multipath is still a very big issue with CDMA, but not with OFDM. It is slow fade situations (like Doppler Effect when moving at high speeds) that give OFDM lots of trouble, while CDMA shrugs them off. Anyway, the technical merits of any two technologies are always debatable and of secondary importance. The reasons vendors want LTE instead of HSPA+ is to get out from under the thumb of Qualcomm — the same reason GSM ended up getting pushed a lot harder than CDMA, by vendors. Carriers, meanwhile usually want whatever technology the vendors will give them the best long term deals on. Occasionally, you have someone like Sprint, tha tjust values being different from everyone else, but they are the rare exception.

      • indiraparme

        Hii i am indira pursing masters in Electrical engineering.. My area of interest is wireless communications and this semesters i started dng research on Wimax..After seeing this article i am not able to decide what to do? Plz suggest with ur experience…

    • Scarhawk

      In what way has LTE caught up with WiMax? Comparable bits per Hertz? So what, if the system architecture is still voice-centric and treats IP packets as a resented side business. So what, if the user experience is more defined by bandwidth caps and blocked applications.

      Let’s not lament Clearwire being “odd.” It only takes one competitor with a superior product to upend the market as we know it. If they deliver bandwidth at a better price and without arbitrary roadblocks, they will win eventually.