WiMax and LTE may or may not displace wired networks and may or may not merge. But whatever they do, it is clear that they will be part of a broad and robust wireless future. It also is obvious that a lot of jockeying is going on. A new study from In-Stat suggests that the road to 4G has "cleared a bit" because ultra mobile broadband (UMB) has essentially dropped from contention.
That leaves WiMax and Long Term Evolution (LTE) left to duke it out for supremacy. The data-only platforms have a good deal in common. Both promise eventual speed of 100 Mbps mobile and 1 Gbps stationary performance. The report says the first big test will be the fate of the Sprint's Xohm rollout. In any case, during the next five years mobile WiMax and LTE will continue to be dwarfed by 2G and 3G cellular subscriptions.
There never was any question that LTE would not be available until after WiMax, but it may not be as far off as some people assume. This Nokia Siemens Networks press release says the company will provide its Flexi Multimode Base Station hardware to more than 10 mobile operators in Asia, Europe and North America by the end of the year. The gear is LTE-capable and can reach that status via software upgrade, the release says.
More LTE news was made this month. Ericsson said this week that its field trials had reached 100 Mbps from base station to terminal. In the test, four streams were measured with peak rates of more than 130 Mbps. The combined bandwidth was 260 Mbps, which translates in 20 MHz, according to an article in the Ericsson Review quoted in the piece.
The assumption made by companies in both LTE and WiMax sectors is that there will be a market for their products, each of which demands years to develop and refine. CNET's Marguerite Reardon has her doubts. She says the business model floated in Baltimore by Xohm is eerily similar to that of municipal Wi-Fi projects. Reardon also says that little end user equipment is available, so Xohm is using available 3G technology. Since it is limited to air cards and other devices running at 3G speeds, it essentially is competing on equal footing with the slowpokes. A Forrester analyst suggests that the Baltimore project simply may be using the early rollouts for market testing, which would invalidate at least some of Reardon's critique.
There will be many twists and turns as the worlds of WiMax, LTE and wired platforms continue to evolve. The key for IT departments and planners is to match the changes against the physical needs and financial limitations of their organizations.