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WiMAX Forum: 100 more operators to launch service this year: Fixed providers to offer as enhanced DSL in U.S.

With investments already made into WiMAX, the wireless broadband technology will be able to withstand the current economic downturn in a year that will see some additional network deployments, according to the WiMAX Forum.
Because of the current economic climate, WiMAX providers are not being as aggressive with network deployments, but the forum estimates at least 100 more operators will launch commercial services this year.
“Due to the financial situation, the growth rate of deployments will slow down,” said Dr. Mohammad Shakouri, the forum’s VP of marketing. “Everyone is watching their cash.”
The forum also expects for WiMAX to continue to capitalize on its head start on LTE, a next-generation technology that is being spearheaded by Verizon Wireless in the U.S.
Invested
Some analysts have a different take on how WiMAX and LTE figure into the market.
Shakouri questions the willingness of companies to invest in LTE because of the current economic downturn. He said WiMAX does not face this issue because investments have already been made in the technology as network deployments grew rapidly in 2008. Intel Corp. remains committed in backing the technology.
There are 455 WiMAX deployments globally in 135 countries, according to the forum. The technology covers more than 430 million people and the forum expects for that number to double by 2010.
However, growth in the United States has been slow and Shakouri said he is hopeful money set aside for broadband deployments in the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act can help jump start WiMAX operators.
Congress has set aside $7.2 billion for telecom-related programs, with $6.39 billion to be doled out in grants and loans to promote broadband in rural areas that don’t have access to the technology or are underserved.
“There is a chance the stimulus package can open some doors,” Shakouri said.
Clearwire centric
Growth in the United States heavily depends on the joint venture by Sprint Nextel Corp. and Clearwire Corp. as the companies control the majority of the spectrum for the technology. So far, WiMAX is being offered in just two cities, Baltimore and Portland, Ore.
The forum is forecasting U.S. subscribers to reach close to 4 million this year and explode to 18 million by 2012.
How fast Clearwire builds out the WiMAX network will depend on the company’s finances, Shakouri said.
“We are hopeful the stimulus package and the dynamics of the market can speed this along,” he said.
After the stimulus package was approved by the government, Clearwire officials said the company would explore whether to go after the grants and loans that will be available.
Fixed vs. mobile
According to research firm In-Stat, WiMAX will continue to outpace LTE over the next few years and the technologies will take different paths. Verizon Wireless is expected to launch LTE commercially sometime next year but most operators will wait until 2011 or 2012.
In-Stat claims operators that will deploy WiMAX will come from the fixed network space while early operators supporting LTE will be mobile providers. In-Stat forecasts LTE will have 23 million subscribers by 2013.
In-Stat analyst Daryl Schoolar said in a statement that operators that choose WiMAX will do so as an enhanced DSL service, and providers that choose LTE will look to increase capacity and peak rates on their existing mobile networks.
Shiv Bakhshi, an IDC analyst, counters that WiMAX and LTE will serve different segments of the market. Bakhshi said WiMAX will be a strong player in developing countries. However, the technology will have trouble competing in developed countries because of other broadband technology that is already in place and the momentum LTE has gained among the top wireless providers. Bakhshi said WiMAX in developed countries will serve niche markets.
Consolidation ahead
The WiMAX Forum also expects for consolidation to occur in the WiMAX market among infrastructure vendors because of the economic downturn. Nortel Networks Corp. has ceased its WiMAX division as the company moves through bankruptcy proceedings and Alcatel-Lucent has said it will cut back in WiMAX spending.
“We expect consolidation in the market, but there are more than enough players,” Shakouri said.
Although, mobile WiMAX has made some gains globally, evolution of the next generation of the technology has already started. Shakouri said standards are being created this year for the second phase of WiMAX that will have faster speeds and trials of the technology could happen as soon as next year.
In the meantime, the forum is expecting more devices with WiMAX capabilities to become available this year. The forum projects there will be 100 certified products on the market this year and the number will grow to 1,000 by 2011. The forum also expects growth to continue in Asia, Europe, Latin America and Africa.
“We don’t see one region that is dominant in regard to growth,” Shakouri said. “We see growth happening in all these regions.”

ABOUT AUTHOR

Kyle Welch
Kyle is the Vice President and General Manager for RCR Wireless News and Enterprise IoT Insights. He oversees all day to day operations, marketing, sales and client services. Prior to joining the team he worked in analytics, project management and marketing for tech companies and marketing agencies. Kyle has an MBA from St. Edward’s University and a bachelor’s from SUNY Purchase.

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