A new report by the Maravedis analyst firm predicts the number of WiMAX subscribers worldwide will top 100 million by 2014. It is slightly more bullish than a report published earlier this year by Juniper Research, which predicted 80 million WiMAX subscribers by 2013 (Mobile WiMAX subscribers to exceed 80 million by 2013, predicts Juniper Research) but the reasoning of the two analyst companies are the same: more devices (and applications) will drive adoption.
“WiMAX chipsets will start to be embedded in laptops in the second half of 2008, into handheld devices in 2009, and into consumer electronics by early 2010,” says Adlane Fellah, president and CEO of Maravedis and co-author of its yearly report, WiMAX, LTE and Broadband Wireless Worldwide Market Trends. “This is definitely a key assumption, as large scale deployments by companies such as BSNL and Sprint start to materialize in 2008-2009 despite current challenges.”
As opposed to the 3GGP camp, whose IPR is dominated by Qualcomm, WiMAX suppliers are making concerted efforts to lower royalties through cooperation with each other (WiMAX IPR is held by a wide variety of suppliers). In this way, WiMAX hopes to become embedded into a multitude of devices without any dramatic increases in device cost.
There are still some hurdles for WiMAX to overcome, not least the absence of any certified devices for the mobile WiMAX standard (802.16e). This has not stopped, however, a slew of pre-certified devices coming onto market. “As predicted by Maravedis, more than 100 mobile WiMAX devices have been announced or made available commercially,” says Jeff Orr, senior analyst at Maravedis and co-author of the report. The first certified mobile devices are expected to arrive this year.
While Sprint Nextel is generally viewed as the flagship mobile WiMAX network in terms of scale, which is expected to go live Q208, India has enormous WiMAX potential. BSNL and VSNL are already rolling out extensive fixed WiMAX networks across India’s major cities and the Indian government is expected this spring to auction 20MHz of spectrum in the 2.5GHz band to two more players (20MHz each).
BSNL has already been awarded 20MHz spectrum in the 2.5GHz band, which, unlike the 3.3GHz band currently used for fixed WiMAX rollouts in India, is standardized (better economies of scale) and designed for customer self- installation. Fixed WiMAX equipment, due to lack of in- building coverage, can require truck rollouts to mount the outdoor CPE on the building, which puts added pressure on the business case.