WiMax appears to be a hit around the world--except for the U.S., according to deployment data released by the WiMax Forum Monday.
WiMax, also known as 4G, now is offered on networks covering 620 million people in 147 countries, said the WiMax forum. By the end of 2010, 800 million people will be covered with 1 billion by the end of 2011. The 2011 time frame is notable because that's when Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks, a WiMax rival technology, will begin to ramp.
The data, however, indicates that WiMax is a global effort, but lags in North America. For instance, Clearwire is the main champion of WiMax in the U.S. and largely responsible for the deployments. Clearwire has some big backers like Intel, Google and others and partners like Comcast and Sprint, but can't carry the load by itself.
The debate over 4G technologies has been going on for years. In the US, and much of Europe, it would seem that Long Term Evolution (LTE) has the upper hand and will likely be popular in that part of the world. In the United States, Clearwire has a large WiMAX network covering 69 markets.
However, just this week, the company began testing LTE signals. The company will likely make a shift in the next few years from WiMAX to LTE because this is the technology that the other wireless carriers are likely to adopt. Another seemingly large blow to WiMAX was when Cisco recently reported that they will be exiting the WiMAX market they entered back in 2007 with the acquisition of Navini Networks.
So this signals the death of WiMAX, right? Wrong.
First, let's look at Cisco's bowing out of the WiMAX radio, antenna and base station market. While this may seem like a big deal, Cisco never really was a big player in this market that has been and still is dominated by Cellular tower manufacturers such as Motorola and Qualcom.
It is my belief that Cisco made a half-hearted attempt to enter the market for the purpose of helping to kick-start the 4G revolution. Cisco wanted to get their foot in the door to begin conversations with wireless service providers such as Clearwire so they could sell not only WiMAX gear, but also routers and switches.
A brand new core network was required for Clearwire's rollout, which is Cisco's bread and butter. As it turned out, Cisco was so successful in it's pursuit that the WiMAX bait-and-switch tactic was no longer needed.
Now let's look at why LTE will be a more popular option in more developed countries such as the United States. Strictly from a technology standpoint, both WiMAX and LTE offer similar performance statistics both now and for the foreseeable future.
The real selling point that makes LTE more attractive in developed countries is that LTE is a simple "rip and replace" of a few existing 3G network components. These components can be quickly and fairly seamlessly upgraded with LTE components.