The Death and Life of WiMax

Carl Weinschenk

The exit of Cisco from the WiMax radio sector does nothing to alter the perception that Long Term Evolution (LTE) will be the winner in, well, the long term.


As reported in a number of places, including Computerworld, Cisco is backing off from its strong advocacy for WIMax that saw it acquire Navini Networks in 2007. Navini, the story says, brought its WiMax radio access network (RAN) gear to Cisco. In the interim, as the story points out, LTE has made steady and methodical progress. The technology will be deployed by AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Indeed, the move away from WIMax may be interpreted as a sign that the Cisco has no desire to bite two hands that feed it.


This isn't, of course, good news for WiMax and the companies such as Intel that have labored long and hard to see it develop. But there is no suggestion that WiMax is going away. Clearwire, the largest WiMax player in the world, is a viable company that seems to be making good on its expansive expansion plans.


Intel says the next version of the technology-802.16m-will replace 802.16e and be ready for deployment in 2012, according to Network World. That seems like a long time in the future. In a sense, it should cheer WiMax supporters that the big thinkers-and big investors-are still thinking ahead. It is said that the new version will offer 170 megabits per second (Mbps) downloads and 90 Mbps upstream. Current WiMax speeds are 16 Mbps and 4 Mbps downstream and up, respectively. The story quotes an Intel executive as saying that there will be between 6 million and 10 million WiMax users worldwide.


The resiliency of the WiMax sector-regardless of its success vis a vis LTE-also is evident in announcements that it is creating niche relationships and these numbers from Infonetics Research. The firm said that the device and equipment market is up for the third consecutive quarter and that subscriber counts rose 75 percent last year. The release, which mentions Russian provider Yota and Japanese firm UQ in addition to Clearwire, offers seven bullet points which paint a positive picture. In a more anecdotal assessment of its health, VMAX Telecom has outfitted 1,000 taxis in Taipei with WiMax consoles.


Technology is not an either/or game. The Cisco move clearly is not good news for WiMax, both in terms of image and because the vendor brings a lot to any table at which it choose to sit. It's also clear that WiMax will not be as big as LTE. All that said, however, it will is apparent that WiMax remains a significant wireless networking force.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 10, 2010 10:46 AM Challenger Challenger  says:

To presume that one technology of this magnitude would be a winner and one would be a loser is simply ignorant.  CDMA and GSM coexist in great abundance.  Why would WiMax and LTE be any different over the long run.  MAC and PC are similar.  Multiple OS's in the handset world are yet another, and the list can go on.  It's a great big world out there.

Mar 10, 2010 10:51 AM Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk  says: in response to Challenger

It's not ignorant to assess which technology is likely to dominate and which is likely to play a secondary role, which was the context of the post. It also is possible to say that the technology that has more market share, especially if it is a good bit more, is the winner. That doesn't presume that the other technology will disappear.

Mar 10, 2010 11:10 AM lteandwimaxconsultant lteandwimaxconsultant  says:

There is just too much trash talk these days by people and companies who have never seen either LTE and WiMAX work.

The comparison between WiMAX and LTE cannot be made with the current WiMAX IEEE802.16e version which is deployed by ClearWire, on the contrary , the comparison must be made between WiMAX IEEE802.16m and LTE, as the IEEE802.16m version is "The True Mobile WiMAX Technology"

So for companies that are supporting either LTE or WiMAX that is just business talks nothing more than that...they think that by doing Press Releases they can move the market either way...but it is just talks, no facts, no real deployments no truth behind the scenes.

They don't know an important fact "WiMAX in its 802.16m version is 95% similar than LTE" ...and if an operator decides to migrate from 802.16m WiMAX to LTE, they can do it right away....but they won' has been tested in laboratory that the speeds of WiMAX in its 802.16m version are much faster than LTE.

Just recently Verizon posted some numbers with regards to some LTE tests they are doing in the 700Mhz band with FDD channels, the speeds that they are getting are no where comparable to what WIMAX 802.16m and even WIMAX 802.16e (the Clearwire version) give.

So bottom line, "NOT ALWAYS THE BIGGEST COMPANIES FOLLOW THE BEST TECHNOLOGY" I read lots of articles saying LTE is better because AT&T and Verizon are deploying it, but that doesn't mean LTE is better than WiMAX.

Cisco , what can I say....about time they stepped out of the WiMAX business, Cisco was always about switching and cabled networks, they were never succesfull in the broadband wireless metropolitan networks (look the lousy Aironet equipment they had for a long time) and when they purchased Navini, that was a bad move.

Navini was never successful in the wireless market, they started with a last mile technology in 2.5Ghz "proprietary" and "very expensive", they weren't doing good and thought that Cisco could help them at least convert their products into a WiMAX certified line...but they never did, they got hammered in price by Huawei, ZTE, Alcatel, Alvarion, Airspan, etc.


Mar 10, 2010 11:18 AM Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk  says: in response to lteandwimaxconsultant

What's interesting is where the technical realities and the marketing hype cross. In other words, assuming all you say is correct, when does it stop mattering, really, that people are comparing LTE to the "wrong" version of WiMax. I am not criticizing your position, but asking when the perception becomes more important than the reality that a better version of WiMax is on the way?

Mar 10, 2010 11:52 AM lteandwimaxconsultant lteandwimaxconsultant  says: in response to Carl Weinschenk

Nowadays, facts don't drive perception, what drive perception is basically what you are saying "marketing hype" , it is like being inside the speculative bubble again. We believe what we read, what we listen and what is published in a well known website, and the internet has speed things up for this.

WiMAX has always been dominated by "pure plays", companies like Alvarion, Airspan, Redline Communications, etc. ...back since 2005. However, one day, Motorola, Alcatel, Nokia-Siemens, Huawei, Cisco thought that this could be it, that WiMAX is "The Next Best Thing", they invested money in M&A, and creating WiMAX Business Units inside their companies...and started being players in this industry.

However. now that LTE is in the "Press Releases" creating just pure "marketing hype" these companies are thinking "uhmm perhaps we screwed up, perhaps it is LTE now"

Perhaps tomorrow or next week a China Telecom or another big company in Europe decides to go the WIMAX IEEE802.16m way or another acronym like "YMCA" , perhaps Intel increases its investment in WiMAX and all of this is published in a press release ...what would that do?

At the end, if it is WiMAX or LTE , the one who will purchase this service will be end users, and they won't even tell and won't even care what device are using. But the main difference is that WiMAX or LTE have much less CAPEX and OPEX than current 2G and 2G celular networks. Current 3G technology (GSM, CDMA, etc) is based on two networks (one for voice and one for data)....LTE and WiMAX on the contrary is based on a single IP network for voice and data

In conclusion, Marketing , Press Releases, Pre-Commercial Trials, all of them drive perception, whether they speak the truth or not, they drive perception...and if these media tools are being influence by huge telecom operators to go a certain way, then who knows what will it be...but we still live in a "speculative bubble" when it comes to LTE and WiMAX , the 4G Technology.

Mar 15, 2010 2:32 AM Cletus Spuckler Cletus Spuckler  says:


Let us not predict the demise of Wimax; instead, let us do what we can

to make it flourish.  Why?  Because without it, we'll be stuck in

telco land...a land that's not a fun place to be.

For those of us old enough to remember, telco land has always been

about closed, proprietary systems with ever increasing prices (good

old cost plus accounting) and perpetually renewing service contracts.

The only way out of this land is via competition; the type Wimax

provides.  If you don't believe this, witness what cable company

competition coupled with VOIP has done to the telco's land line


In summary, let's move away from closed proprietary systems and the

telco's competition model (i.e. lawyers, State capitols, DC, and

whining) and toward open, high speed wireless networks that allow

users to dictate how they will be used.  Just as without high speed

cable modems there'd be no Fios; I'm reasonably sure that in the

absence of Wimax, there would be no LTE.

Just my $0.02.


Cledus Delroy Spuckler


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