A Bad Week For WiMax

News of ‘WiMAX deployments’ are coming out fast and furious these days, although with very little connection to reality. We have never been boosters here, we admit, but we simply try to separate the fact from the rampant fiction of the spinmeisters. Our 2006’s anti-spin message seems to be that any mobile WiMAX deployment you may be told about is NOT standards-compliant, since there are currently exactly 0 chipset vendors with a standards-compliant chip. If anyone ever tries to tell you about one, just ask “Oh, when did that equipment pass WiMAX testing?” and note the lack of an answer. So while we wait through the delays for WiMAX to make it’s first (non-proprietary) mobile appearance, it has been a tough week for both fixed and mobile WiMAX. The newsletter “WiMAX Vision.com” this week conceded a tough slog, and contained at least five negative headlines about the technology. To sum them up:

1) Deutsche Telekom has chosen not to use fixed or mobile WiMAX in the foreseeable future to expand their ISP business to rural areas of Germany. They won’t bid for 3.5GHz licenses.
2) Nokia has promised a WiMAX phone, but not until 2008.
3) With MIMO integrated into WiMAX technology (which is good), the costs of the CPE are going to exceed expectations (which is bad).
4) The Yankee Group released a major report saying that mobile WiMAX won’t be available until 2008.
5) AT&T pulled out of a mobile WiMAX trials in which it was participating with other carriers. AT&T’s explanation for leaving the Netherlands-based, multi-operator trials was that “the technology was too immature”. According to Informa, AT&T says it will be another two years (2008) before 802.16e is mature enough in security terms to power service to enterprise customers.

Granted, I’ve skipped over some positive news in the Informa Telecoms-based newsletter. But we think that bringing WiMAX closer to reality would be a good thing for the industry. Wireless vendors, with real trials in the works, need to make sure their rhetoric somewhat matches the results carriers are getting with respect to costs, performance, availability, and standards-compliance. Promising WiMAX laptops by 2006 just sets up the technology for a backlash. (Did anyone really make such ludicrous claims? Click here.)

By going against the hype, Techdirt has sometimes caught flack from the much-better-funded bandwagon, however, it seems like the consensus from Deutsche, AT&T, and Yankee above is that we may optimistically see some mobile WiMAX by 2008. Of course, that’s what we’ve been saying all along. Check out this 2003 headline where we wrote that because of lack of rigid standards, security, and roaming, we’d see “WiMAX – Ready For Prime Time… in 2008.

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Comments on “A Bad Week For WiMax”

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1 Comment
Senadin says:

A Bad Week For WiMax

WiMAX is not a technology, but rather a certification mark, or stamp of approval, given to equipment that meets certain conformity and inter-operability tests for the IEEE 802.16 family of standards. But, what could be the future for this certified mark?

The evolution of 3G networks could pose a threat to the success of WiMAX. Many 3G operators have shown less interest in mobile WiMAX and are more interested in technological upgrades to their own networks that would enable them to compete with WiMAX. Third-generation mobile operators have incurred great expense to roll out new networks and the prospect of starting again with a new WiMAX network is not appealing. Operators will likely favor faster network upgrades of existing networks rather than the roll-out of a parallel WiMAX network.

Operators are hoping the transformation to high-speed wireless broadband on their networks can mimic the successful upgrades of UMTS/CDMA operators to higher-speed EV-DO technologies.
HSDPA will offer faster connections to mobile phones but mobile operators are also very interested in leveraging their 3G networks for business data services. 3G data cards, typically built for a laptop’s PCMCIA slot, are becoming more popular with business users who want outdoor or mobile access to the Internet at any given time. These dedicated data services will likely compete directly with mobile WiMAX.

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