This year will be decisive in the development of WiMAX, which experienced major setbacks in 2007, says Analysys, the global advisor in Telecom, IT and media, at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (11-14 February).
WiMAX (Worldwide interoperability for Microwave Access) is a wireless broadband technology based on the IEEE 802.16 family of standards. It was originally designed as a last-mile fixed wireless broadband access technology, but has also became a mobile broadband specification.
Theoretically, WiMAX offers longer ranges, increased throughput, QoS and interoperability at relatively low cost.
"WiMAX suffered a major setback when the partnership between US operator Sprint Nextel, one of the technology's strongest advocates, and Clearwire fell apart in November," says Andrew Parkin-White, Principal Analyst at Analysys, and co-author of Mobile Market Perspectives 2008 (A summary of recent research into the evolving mobile market).
"Several WiMAX networks were launched in developing markets in 2007, but most were small in scale and, given the low disposable income in these countries, operators will need to revise their business models if the cost of mobile WiMAX CPE continues to be high."
Research also suggests other technologies may meet the needs of the MNO (Mobile Network Operator) and its customers better than WiMAX.
"LTE looks to be more suitable for developed mobile markets, but success depends on its ability to achieve its targets for network performance at an appropriate price and within the right timescale," says Parkin-White.
An alternative approach may well threaten conventional thinking on 3G network enhancements: the availability of low-cost fixed broadband, the advent of femtocells (indoor base stations) and the adoption of dedicated broadcasting networks could call into question the need for the envisaged network enhancement strategy.
"Our research, combined with demand and capacity modelling, has shown that an approach that combines these alternatives with HSPA+ may meet the capacity needs of a wide range of operators. If MNOs start to develop a fundamentally different view on their strategy for technology evolution, vendors will have to totally rethink their approach to the market in 2008. Either way, the future for WiMAX does not look healthy," explains Parkin-White.