WiMAX Gains Ground Despite Recession

There might be a recession-based impact on capex by service providers, but WiMAX is still gaining ground, says the WiMAX Forum.

WiMAX has spread its 4G self out to 519 networks in 146 countries, including 95 WiMAX networks deployed by 2G mobile operators. About 20 percent of those –112, to be exact – were added this year.

Some operator deployments stand out for 2009. One is Yota, which reached 250,000 active commercial users on its Russian network and has passed the breakeven point, thanks to more than 2,300 subscribers added per day to its WiMAX network. In April 2009, 65 product models from six vendors (Acer, Asus, Lenovo, MSI, Samsung, Toshiba) with WiMAX embedded chipsets were introduced to the Russian market. In 2010, Yota expects to add a new GSM + Mobile WiMAX phone, supporting VoIP over WiMAX.

Meanwhile, Clearwire Corp. has reached more than 555,000 subscribers in the United States; its network covers more than 30 million consumers in 34 markets and has an ARPU of nearly $40.

Elsewhere, Malaysia’s Packet One Networks, which celebrated its first anniversary of operations this year, has reached 130,000 subscribers. Korea Telecom covers more than half of the Korean population, and UQ Communications now covers more than half of Japan’s population, offering services to consumers via more than 20 MVNO partners.

Imagine this year launched its 4G Mobile WiMAX network deployment to cover Ireland, which will also reduce the average cost of broadband and phone services by as much as 50 percent, the company says. And Freedom4 received the green light to offer fully mobile WiMAX services in the U.K., using its nationwide 3.6GHz spectrum, after regulator Ofcom granted the operator a license variation.

“In the tough economic climate of 2009, WiMAX continued to make significant strides,” said Daryl Schoolar, principal analyst, wireless infrastructure at Current Analysis. “Operators such as Packet One, Yota, and Clearwire continued to expand their network footprints. Device form factors continued to improve, with more functionality and eye-pleasing packaging. I expect in 2010 not only will network deployment stories turn into subscriber stories, but we will see true commercial WiMAX roaming between operators supported by multi-band devices.”

In terms of technology, there were 86 products that received WiMAX Forum Certified status this year.

On the regulatory front, FDD WiMAX was accepted into the IMT-2000 family of standards and more than 50 companies endorsed the IEEE 802.16m IMT-Advanced candidate proposal for a future-proof roadmap.

Despite all the hullaballoo over LTE, vendors and operators are still supporting WiMAX, including commitments to build and trial WiMAX Release 2 based on the IEEE 802.16m standard – the next wave of the technology. These ecosystem backers include Alvarion, Beceem, Cisco, Clearwire, Huawei, Intel, KT, Motorola, Samsung, Sequans, UQC, Yota and ZTE.

The WiMAX Release 2 specification will be finalized in 2010 in parallel with IEEE 802.16m and IMT-Advanced, ensuring that WiMAX Release 2 networks and devices will remain backward compatible with legacy WiMAX Release 1 based on IEEE 802.16e.

The WiMAX Forum has several initiatives planned for 2010, including:

  • Certification of Mobile WiMAX 2.3 GHz products
  • Launch of the Open Retail Certification Program
  • Completion of the WiMAX Forum Release 2 specs based on the new IEEE standard 802.16m
  • Commercialization and deployment of the WiMAX Forum global roaming program
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