Get ready for a flood of wireless news and analysis in the run-up to CTIA. Among the topics of discussion will be fierce debate on the current state of WiMAX, and in fact it’s begun already. I opened up TechMeme this morning and was greeted by the news that several cable companies are looking to add funds to a proposed Sprint/Clearwire WiMAX network. This brings up two issues as far as I’m concerned: cable companies attempting once again to harness the quad play (adding on wireless to voice, video and data), and the “fight” between WiMAX and LTE. I’ll leave the first issue to other experts except to agree with Om Malik that the timing is appropriate given the recent 700 MHz spectrum wins by Verizon and AT&T. Regarding the second issue, I have a bit more to say.
News of the death of WiMAX has been wildly overstated. There’s confusion between the state of WiMAX in the US and the state of WiMAX in the rest of the world, where, except for an odd Aussie deployment, WiMAX is doing quite well. And in the US, despite dire predictions about the resources behind WiMAX, there is simply too much investment already made to pull back, even if people (namely Sprint and Clearwire) wanted to. This is a good thing! Let’s continue to give love and development resources to LTE, another 4G technology, but since WiMAX is going to bring higher-speed wireless broadband to the US faster than LTE, folks should be all for it.
Which brings me to my last point. WiMAX and LTE have a lot in common. Motorola’s Fred Wright stated back in January that between 70% and 80% of the development work being done for WiMAX can be used for LTE. The proof is in the pudding, right? Motorola announced today a new common hardware platform that will be used to support both WiMAX and LTE access points. It’s not the first hardware on the market to be used for both purposes, but it’s Motorola’s third-generation OFDM platform, smaller than earlier versions and benefiting (in terms of cost, size, and power consumption) from the company’s extensive experience with commercial WiMAX deployments.
There will be a lot more discussion about both WiMAX and LTE around CTIA, but the important thing to remember is that both have a lot of potential upside for everyone: hardware manufacturers, service providers and consumers.