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WiMAX Telecom CTO keeps faith in Alcatel-Lucent

WiMAX Telecom is sticking with Alcatel-Lucent for the deployment of mobile WiMAX equipment in Croatia, which started rollout in December 2008. This is despite the fact that the Paris-headquartered supplier announced shortly afterwards it was trimming down its WiMAX mobility R&D to focus on a wireless-based ‘enhanced DSL’.  WiMAX Telecom still intends to launch a mobile broadband service in Croatia.

Alcatel-Lucent is still sufficient for what we want to do,” Peter Ziegelwanger, WiMAX Telecom CTO, told telecoms.com at the MWC event in Barcelona. “We are data-centric and we’re limiting the mobile service to restricted areas, so we don’t have such a big demand for WiMAX mobility in terms of nationwide coverage.”

No doubt Zieglewanger’s decision will be frustrating for other WiMAX vendors who were looking to take over the mobile WiMAX reins from Alcatel-Lucent in Croatia, particularly Alvarion. The Israeli WiMAX supplier already provides fixed WiMAX (802.16d) base stations in WiMAX Telecom’s two other operations in Austria and Slovakia, which have 3,000 and 10,000 subscribers respectively.

But Alcatel-Lucent insists it is not running away from WiMAX. “Alcatel-Lucent is 100 per cent committed to WiMAX in the long term,” Karim El Nagger, Alcatel-Lucent’s VP and head of WiMAX activities, said in an early morning briefing at MWC, which was hosted by Intel.So why is WiMAX Telecom’s CTO visiting MWC, which, after all, is very much focused on the 3GPP evolution path to LTE? “We have to evaluate all the technologies,” says Zieglewanger.

Could it be that WiMAX Telecom could become LTE Telecom? “Why not?” he says, but quickly adds it is unlikely. “There is at least five years between a standard being ratified and having devices available with attractive form factors. It took that long with GSM and UMTS, and it took that long with WiMAX. The LTE standard has yet to be ratified.”

But WiMAX Telecom’s continued commitment to 802.16e is far from assured. While Zieglewanger believes the extra capacity of WiMAX over HSPA technologies gives it a competitive advantage, he is still looking for cheaper infrastructure and devices to make the business case more attractive. That will require much more scale. “We need the big WiMAX projects in the US, India and Japan to be successful so we can be successful,” he says.

Ziegelwanger is also looking for partnerships with cable operators to share the mobile WiMAX capex burden. With the cable operator’s existing infrastructure used for backhaul and customers already in place, Zieglewanger envisages they would be ideally placed to upsell quad-play packages while WiMAX Telecom would play the role of network wholesaler.

But additional finance would still have to be raised externally, concedes Zieglewanger. Yet if the big WIMAX projects are successful, then this may not be as hard to do as it might seem today.


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