WiMax Growing, but a Mixed Picture, Says Report

WiMax subscribers are expected to reach 2 million by the end of the year, but deployments are a mixed picture, says a new report from ABI, and growth is coming just as LTE begins to compete for customers.

Mobile WiMax subscribers are expected to reach 2 million by the end of 2009, according to a Dec. 3 report from ABI Research. As large-scale deployment come to fruition, WiMax's numbers are rising, but the picture is quite mixed, says the report.

Clearwire, the majority share of which is owned by Sprint Nextel, now claims 173,000 subscribers, while Russia's Yota reached 200,000 in October and PackOne, in Malaysia, claims 130,000 subscribers. Japan's UQ Communications, however, is behind on its rollout, and in South Korea, subscriber numbers have stagnated, ABI reports.

"Mobile WIMax service providers around the world find themselves in very different situations," wrote Philip Solis, an ABI analyst, in report summary.

"Some are mainly focused on fixed services for homes and businesses, while others are jumping feet first into mobile WiMax, offering a variety of external modems, laptops, netbooks and even handsets tied into HD multimedia services, as with Yota in Russia," Solis continued. "Some have little fixed or mobile broadband competition, while others are competing directly against fixed and mobile broadband services."

Solis added that while some service providers are remaining local, others, such as Clearwire and Yota, are building networks in more than one country.

In an Oct. 23 statement, Clearwire International, a subsidiary of the Clearwire Corp., announced it had successfully completed an inter-network roaming connection between WiMax networks, enabling a USB modem and a Clear 4G WiMax service to access a WiMax network in Taiwan.

"The future promise of WiMax stretches beyond national borders to offer mobile data users the ability to connect wirelessly, at broadband speeds, wherever they may travel across the globe," wrote Ali Tabssi, Clearwire senior vice president of global ecosystem and standards, in the statement.

ABI points out, however, that as the WiMax market gains momentum, competing 4G technology, LTE, is beginning to make in-roads - and is focused on the same customers.

"The LTE ecosystem will eventually be vastly larger than the mobile WiMax ecosystem, but just as LTE deployments start picking up in 2011 and 2012, some 802.16e service providers will begin upgrading their networks to 802.16m," ABI wrote in the report.

Additionally, in order to better cover this developing market, ABI announced the launch of a 4G Research Service. Via the service it plans to offer quantitative and qualitative assessments of 4G markets, updates on regional-, country-, device- and subscriber-level segmentation, and also city-by-city looks at deployment areas via Google Earth.