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Sarin warns industry to work faster to beat WiMAX

Operators need to pull together more efficiently to avoid the threat posed by WiMAX, according to Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin, speaking at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday.

Sarin called on the industry as a whole to work faster on its plans for Long Term Evolution (LTE), the next generation cellular technology, highlighting the faster than anticipated adoption of WiMAX on the world stage.

“The GSMA needs to influence the ecosystem. LTE is still at the standards stage, while WiMAX is a commercial reality,” said Sarin.

However, the Vodafone boss also believes that while WiMAX – “the elephant in the room,” – may well be a commercial reality in some markets, it is still some distance away from being “prime time.”

US carrier Sprint made a splash recently when it rolled out WiMAX, but the company also has a cdma2000 1x EV-DO network.

“I think they just like to have a multiple network strategy, maybe one day someone explain it to me,” quipped Sarin. “LTE offers better backwards compatibility,” he said, but added that if the technology did not start moving along faster, Vodafone would be forced into considering compatibility with the OFDM technology.

GSM Association chairman Craig Ehrlich said “I would take issue that WiMAX is the elephant in the front room. You could have said that about CDMA – which is great technology – but now you could argue that it has become niche. As an organisation we have no position on it. We accept that some of our member operators will adopt it. But we’re gearing up on our own mobile broadband evolution path.”

But in an industry that has a created a culture which celebrates its major achievement s on a regular basis, Sarin said “We need to compete with adjacent industries, embrace new communications technologies and create new revenue streams.

“At Vodafone we have changed our strategy. We’re not just a mobile company any more, we’re a total communications company. Last year we added 200 million subscribers across the group, with (Hutchison)Essar we just added a further 25 million,” he said, referring to the company’s acquisition of a controlling stake in Indian operator Hutchison Essar this week.


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