Any reader who believed all the recent headlines would feel confident that the WiMAX market is being crushed by LTE. Nortel has left the WiMAX market and Alcatel-Lucent has “backed off” from WiMAX; these developments supposedly dealt a blow to Clearwire, which had so far chosen neither as an infrastructure vendor. But that is not quite the whole story.

Nortel exited the mobile WiMAX market because it failed to become competitive and win any significant business. Nortel is staying in the fixed WiMAX market. Alcatel-Lucent did not really back away from mobile WiMAX, but rather views it more as a wireless broadband solution than a fully mobile wireless solution. Alcatel-Lucent moved R&D spending from WiMAX to LTE since WiMAX is productized while LTE is just starting to develop. The lines are very blurred between fixed/portable use of mobile WiMAX and fixed/portable/mobile use of mobile WiMAX. Many deployments will start with fixed and portable services first and may evolve to fully mobile use later.

“Contrary to the popular view, Alcatel-Lucent is still quite involved with mobile WiMAX,” says ABI Research principal analyst Philip Solis. “The company has had its 3.5 GHz products certified by the WiMAX Forum; its ‘ng Connect’ program includes mobile WiMAX; and it is working with Intel on an interoperability program for mobile WiMAX devices. In addition, Alcatel-Lucent ranks first in 2008 market share for mobile WiMAX base station deployments, followed by Alvarion, Motorola and Samsung.” WiMAX has many growth opportunities beyond traditional mobile operator networks, including data-centric deployments in both developed and developing regions. “To ignore a growth market in a down economy would be a mistake,” adds Solis. Growth will be more modest for WiMAX base stations by themselves for 2009, but 2010 will see healthy expansion.