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Nokia Officially Disses WiMAX

Oh, Nokia – so fickle! The world’s No. 1 handset manufacturer has made it clear once and for all that it’s just not that into WiMAX.

In fact, in an address at a Nokia launch event, Nokia’s sales chief compared WiMAX to Betamax – the two are alike beyond suffixes, both being intrepid but ultimately loser technologies.

“Betamax was there for a long time, but VHS dominated the market. I see exactly the same thing happening here,” said Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia’s head of sales and manufacturing. “I don’t think the future is very promising [for WiMAX]. This is a classic example of industry standards clashing, and somebody comes out as the winner and somebody has to lose.”

The winner, of course, would be LTE – the other 4G technology, and the one being deployed by several Tier 1 operators.

It’s all a bit ironic considering that Nokia started out as a member of the WiMAX Forum and very interested in the technology from the get-go. It even manufactured the first WiMAX Internet tablet for Sprint-Nextel Corp.’s WiMAX initiative, now Clearwire Corp..

But Nokia started becoming … distant, shall we say, after it became clear that Clearwire’s nationwide WiMAX rollout would be delayed. It ceased manufacture of its Internet tablet, but remained officially “supportive.” And then, earlier in March Nokia was rumored to be teaming up with LTE-supporting Verizon Wireless for a touchscreen LTE device.

Main technology backer Intel Corp. remains bullish on WiMAX, noting its success especially in emerging markets worldwide. Meanwhile, Clearwire is progressing with some recent positives, including several new markets on tap for this year, a new WiMAX device from Samsung, an ingenious appliance for letting Wi-Fi devices connect to WiMAX and a developer program on tap to increase the applications available to end users.

All this might sway the haters – a camp that also includes LTE-focused Ericsson – to admit that WiMAX remains viable.

The again, maybe not: “I don’t see that WiMAX is taking hold anywhere in a big way,” said Vanjoki. Just in case WiMAX didn’t get the hint.

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