WiMax Subscriber Revenue Will Grow 4,500-Plus Percent

Alcatel-Lucent and Nortel investments, plus perceptions of the growing strength of late-comer LTE, had many thinking WiMax's 15 minutes was over. However, ABI Research has a new report that predicts WiMax's 4G technology is far from over and WiMax could be poised for big growth this year, which could mean big plans coming from the likes of Intel and SprintNextel.

WiMax subscriber revenue will grow by 4,500-plus percent this year. At least that's the prediction in a new study from ABI Research released March 4.

"WiMax has many growth opportunities beyond traditional mobile operator networks, including data-centric deployments in both developed and developing regions, said a statement from the research firm.

"To ignore a growth market in a down economy would be a mistake," adds Philip Solis, an ABI analyst.

In a statement announcing the study, ABI suggests that Nortel's withdrawal from the mobile WiMax market, and a shying away by Alcatel-Lucent have been mischaracterized, and are reasons WiMax is perceived to be losing the race against LTE, a competitor for the 4G arena.

"Alcatel-Lucent is still quite involved with mobile WiMax," says Solis. "The company has had its 3.5GHz products certified by the WiMAX Forum; its ng Connect program includes mobile WiMax; and it is working with Intel on an interoperability program for mobile WiMax devices."

As for Nortel, it may have backed out of the mobile WiMax market, the firm asserts, but it remains firm in the fixed WiMax space.

However, there are other reasons why WiMax may appear to be faltering. Clearwire, the main WiMax deployer in the United States, isn't sharing plans for moving forward with its planned U.S. rollout to 46 cities, since its first rollout in Portland, Ore., on Jan. 6.

Some also believe LTE will prove to be the prevailing technology, despite WiMax's several years' lead - the latter being a point Intel executives were keen to point out in February, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Intel, along with Sprint Nextel, committed early to WiMax, while Verizon Wireless and AT&T stood behind LTE.

Even those who expect to see LTE dominate, however, agree there's space for WiMax growth. "Mobile WiMax is still in its early days, but is a technology that is here and available today - albeit in a very few locations," said Susan Welsh de Grimaldo, an analyst with Strategy Analytics in an interview with eWEEK.

"Given Intel's strong support for mobile WiMax, we can expect to see WiMax embedded in more portable computing devices, with a wider selection of available devices as the year progresses," Grimaldo added.

Grimaldo went on to conclude, "Strategy Analytics expects mobile WiMax will have its own decent market share, but that LTE will by far be the predominant technology given its backing by major mobile operators and the much bigger global market."

The study from ABI Research additionally examines major drivers and barriers for WiMax; the potential for mobile WiMax devices and services; forecasts for 802.16-2004 and 802.16e-2005; and detailed segmentation for WiMax devices, including miniCards, MIDs (mobile Internet devices), handsets, "netbooks" and mainstream laptops.