WiMax crisis

The decision of Ericsson to stop developing mobile WiMax has raised questions over the technology's future.

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By  Tawanda Chihota Published  June 4, 2007

Motorola's Kirkaldy remains upbeat with respect to the commercial prospects of mobile WiMAX. "Through the course of this year we expect to see the certification of the 802.16e standard, which is the only WiMAX standard being supported by Motorola," Kirkaldy explains. "The ecosystem for WiMAX is growing and this is our big bet," he adds.

Through the course of this year we expect to see the certification of the 802.16e standard, which is the only WiMAX standard being supported by Motorola. The ecosystem for WiMAX is growing and this is our big bet.

While Motorola is arguably the most vocal equipment supplier pushing the WiMAX cause further, there are other suppliers that are also betting on the impact of WiMAX in developed and developing telecoms markets alike. Resurgent Nortel views the development of a comprehensive ecosystem as being crucial to the uptake of WiMAX.

The vendor is driving an open, multi-vendor MIMO-based ecosystem in collaboration with industry leading chip and device manufacturers such as LGE, Kyocera, ZyXel, Intel, Runcom, Sequans and others.

Nortel is of the opinion that WiMAX customers, ranging from traditional GSM and CDMA operators to new entrants such as cable and satellite players, are interested in a total WiMAX 16e solution from their suppliers, including network infrastructure, services, devices and applications. As such, the supplier is looking to deliver cost effective WiMAX-16e devices such as PCMCIA cards, USB dongles, wireless routers and indoor/outdoor subscriber stations in 2H07, at the same time its WiMAX network infrastructure becomes available.

"Ericsson is perhaps the most prominent vendor that is not supporting WiMAX in a big way as its portfolio is a lot more focused on 3G goods and services and it would not make sense to use 3G technology for the same applications," suggests Milan Sallaba, director and office head of Oliver Wyman, a management consultancy.

"This is in contrast to Motorola, which is the main supporter of WiMAX. Motorola has almost discontinued its 3G research and what we see developing is a situation where vendors are betting on one technology versus the other and not everybody is in the same camp," he adds.

Sallaba believes the issue of whether WiMAX will gain mass-market support or not is based on whether a sufficient number of operators and service providers around the world identify with the technology and help to make it a more economical technology choice.

"I'll use the example of 2G handsets as a prime one. The reason they are so cheap is that there is an abundance of them in the market and the same law of supply and demand is taking place in the 3G arena where handset retail prices are also beginning to drop," Sallaba explains. "The same would be true of WiMAX but if there is very little take up then user experience will not be good as there is very little handover."

Ericsson's Hessler remains damning of WiMAX's ability to become a mass-market technology, able to enjoy the well-entrenched economies of scale present in the GSM and WCDMA worlds. "WiMAX comes about 6-7 years after WCDMA so I think it is difficult to see how it is going to be become a mass market technology. It is not better and it has come six years later," Hessler states.

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