Obscurity may benefit WiMAX

WiMAX looks like it may sidestep the same standardisation problems that occasionally trip up GSM evolution, according to Rob Westwick, principal consultant of wireless technology at PA Consulting.

But he adds that this only holds true because WiMAX is not popular enough yet.

“With 3G you could see from the outset that it was the 500-pound gorilla of the cellular world. You’ve got 2 billion GSM subscribers that will naturally migrate to 3G at some stage, so the sums of money involved are much larger. WiMAX is still at the stage where people are trying to work out how big it’s going to be,” Westwick said.

Instead, the consultant notes, the problems for WiMAX remain the more obvious ones of a promising technology still in the early stages of its commercialisation: it can’t match WCDMA’s (and by extension, LTE’s) economies of scale and 3G’s more coverage-friendly spectrum. The 2.1 GHz band is typically reserved for 3G, while most WiMAX services are likely to occupy the 2.5-3.5GHz band.

Still, WiMAX supporters should not be downcast, Westwick said on the penalty for popularity. “If it is very successful then I’m sure the patent lawyers will start sharpening their pencils and going for people,” he said.

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