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What is the current status and future direction of mobile WiMAX?

Having been a WiMAX proponent since 2004, I am quite dismayed by how that excellent broadband RAN technology has "fallen of a cliff" and is being abandoned by so many entities.  Those include Nokia, Alcatel-Lucent, NSN, Sprint and Clearwire. One big thing that WiMAX had over LTE was the evolution to IEEE 802.16n (AKA WiMAX 2.0), which provided a smooth upgrade path to a higher performace, true 4G network. 


But Clearwire chose LTE-TDD over WiMAX 2.0 while sprint chose LTE-FDD for its Network Vision buildout.  Meanwhile, the utimate WiMAX champion- Intel- could not deliver cost effective, low power Atom Processor with its WiMAX chip.  It was such a dismal failure  that Intel has ZERO design wins in phones and is not designed into mainstream tablets or eReaders.  CEO Paul Otelini, said (in answer to this author's question) that "4G is LTE."


It appears that what's left of the WiMAX industry/ eco-system is in complete denial of the fact that WiMAX has lost the mobile broadband CONSUMER market.  But as this author has often written, that's NOT the only game in town.  Here's a quote from a recent 360 post:


Where does all this leave mobile WiMAX?  In particular:

1.  Will Sprint reach an agreement with Clearwire to resell CLEAR 4G after 2012?  ANSWER: An agreement was reached yesterday, thank goodness!

2.  What is Intel's wireless broadband strategy now that it has closed the WiMAX program office, stopped investing in WiMAX companies/operators, and CEO Paul Otelini said "LTE is 4G."


3.  What will the WiMAX Forum due to re-position WiMAX from consumer market (handsets, tablets, eReaders) to industrial markets like Smart Grid, M2M communications, wireless backhaul of WiFi hot spots, etc?


In particular, I'd like to know why utilities are chosing mesh WiFi/ IEEE 802.11n over WiMAX for the outdoor wireless network that is part of their smart grid.  I will ask Silicon Valley Power that question at the IEEE ComSocSCV Dec 14 meeting where the Santa Clara electric utility company will present its smart grid network (details & RSVP info at:  www.comsocscv.org)


I have many times recommended Sprint should focus more on M2M Communications using WiMAX for all high bandwidth, mobile traffic, e.g. police/law enforcement, ambulances, first responders, vehicular communications involving real time vidoe or imaging, etc. 


Why doesn't the WiMAX Forum do a better job of promoting these and other industrial market segments?  Do those members still have the dream of WiMAX in your pocket (as Intel presented at the Jan 2008 IEEE ComSocSCV meeting)?  Well wake up from that dream if you please!  It is time for a reality check and new marketing plan to keep WiMAX from fading completely and becoming a historical relic.


Comments on this post are especially invited.  What do you think Intel and the WiMAX Forum should do now to keep WiMAX going?  Will WiMAX be remembered as the pioneering OFDMA technology that pushed 3GPP and its member companies to standardize and implement LTE more quickly than would ohterwise be the case?  That's not good enough for me!


Mo Shakouri of Alvarion wrote this pro WiMAX article in response to an IEEE ComSocSCV Email discussion:



Here's what Pyramind Research has to say about WiMAX in Asia:

"We will witness the beginning of the end of WiMAX in Asia"

"Asia has long been considered an important test bed for  WiMAX technology, with 
local governments like the Taiwanese government putting political muscle behind the 
technology and licenses being awarded throughout the region. 2012, however, might 
be the year that marks the beginning of the end for WiMAX. Operators in Taiwan and 
Malaysia are opting to use LTE instead of WiMAX (or asking permission of regulators 
to make the switch), and the majority of BWA licensees in India, considered by 
WiMAX proponents as an ideal market for  WiMAX,  are  opting for LTE. Waning 
operator support will also translate into declining vendor support and higher prices for 
the technology and, most importantly, the price of end-user devices, which ultimately 
determine a technology’s success."
What's your opinion?  Please comment in the box below this article or email to me if you want to be anonymous
Thx,  alan

Views: 1451

Comment by Alan J Weissberger on December 5, 2011 at 8:18pm

A few anonymous posts on this topic from IEEE ComSOcSCV Discussion Group (free to all IEEE members):

More on the adoption trend....

I was just looking at a brief from Marvadedis a rel="nofollow" target="_blank" href="http://www.maravedis-bwa.com/">www.maravedis-bwa.com>;
They state that at end of 3Q2011 Clearwire (only NA WiMax operator) had 9500 sub
And LTE FDD in NA at end of 3Q2011 had 4.9 Million.
The ref 4GCounts Quartely report- I don't know anything about that source, but the numbers seem intuitively correct to me. 
As cellular evolves to incorporate a new (and better) radio technology - and yes even a better network topology - it is necessary to protect the installed base of users. LTE addresses these concerns and they were not addressed in WiMax.  WiMax is basically OFDM radio as an internet access. LTE is OFDM radio as a cellular access - compatible with the 3G core (or even T-Mobiles 4G core) and legacy GPRS, EDGE and UMTS. (after all LTE is not everywhere. And maybe some 1XRTT thrown in. 
The big money still (at least for the next 3 to 5 years) is circuit switched voice. So no matter what is provided by the carrier as a new, improved data access, the user still needs 2/3 G voice service on the mobile device. The mobile device business is cutthroat and thus volume dependent. As a carrier you want your handset vendors to have a large market.  
So a carrier has a decision - which will have the biggest addressable market?
a  GSM 2/3G voice and data + LTE
b  GSM 2/3 G voice and data + WiMax (version e)
As you point out, the telco operators would like a single standard and "a" above looks like a winner - OF course this ignores China's SC system.
Alan, as a wireless guy at heart, I share your frustration. But I think the explanation is quite easy and emerges from a business context:
  1. WiMax 's and Flarion's major contribution was to adopt and push OFDM technology for mobile and prove it is essentially the final system concept for MAC/PHY. Way better than TDMA or CDMA. Thus, QCOM in their brilliance and rapid adaptation bought Flarion for OFDM technology and patents, to compete against Intel, which wanted to enter market against QCOM using WiMAx/OFDM.
  2. As ongoing context, based on my consulting in mobile biz with TELCOs, it's easy to observe that the TELCOs intensely hated the open and uninhibited warfare between GSM and CDMA camps, and the associated malignant fights between EU phone makers and QCOM. What TELCOs also craved was a single MAC/PHY globally that did not depend on any single vendor, (e;g., QCOM), with all the ease of system acquisition and deployment they enjoyed with GSM (ignoring cost and performance issues). 
  3. The solution to the emotional and business issues above, from TELCO point of view, is LTE! It is a global, non-QCOM (and non-Intel)  standard that uses OFDM. 
  4. Finally, WiMax now has little ability to capture any market for which LTE would suffice, simply due to the massive and uniform adoption of LTE. I am not positive, but I don't think there is any important application/system for which WiMax is sufficiently superior to LTE to justify using WiMAX
  5. QED
Comment by Alan J Weissberger on December 6, 2011 at 8:07pm

Dear Steven

I refered to a very positive WiMAX article in the post above:  http://community.comsoc.org/blogs/ajwdct/wimax-industry-refocuses-n...

My objective is to present a fair and balanced view. 

I would love to see WiMAX repositioned for M2M, smart grid, vehicular communications, backhaul, video surveillance and other industrial applications/markets. 

My bottom line from the post above:  "What do you think Intel and the WiMAX Forum should do now to keep WiMAX going?  Will WiMAX be remembered as the pioneering OFDMA technology that pushed 3GPP and its member companies to standardize and implement LTE more quickly than would ohterwise be the case?  That's not good enough for me!"


Comment by Alan J Weissberger on December 8, 2011 at 12:29am

Please see this very informative post on WiMAX Forum's current direction & initiatives from Jonathan Singer:


I totally endorse what's described by Jonathan!



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