Though the tech media portrays LTE and WiMax as competitors, there also is the recognition that a significant drive is under way to marry the two. Indeed, Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin called for just that to happen several months ago.
This Light Reading piece can be taken as something of an update. The story says that not much has happened at the top level, but that chip-level activities are well under way. This is good news for those who like seamless technical transitions. According to the reporter, by the time the agreements are made to actually converge the two technologies, the underlying chip-level infrastructure likely will share so much that the process will be smooth. The story concludes that vendors must be flexible as the markets develop. This is a transcript of a panel discussion led by Network World's Joanie Wexler. The participants, who represented WiMax, LTE and 802.11n, spend a lot of time defining the upstream and downstream capabilities of their pet technology. This is a tricky topic since the answers are very important politically, but uncertain, since theoretical data rates don't match what users are likely to see. Each of the protocols has a legitimate claim to offering significant performance improvements in the near future. WiMax is rolling out in earnest, LTE is expected in 2010, and Wi-Fi is morphing from 802.11a, b and g to the much faster 802.11n standard.
Timing is key. For one thing, this story suggests that Qualcomm's decision to no longer back another 4G standard -- ultramobile broadband (UMB) -- might have had something to do with the need for companies to be more selective during the economic downturn. Another timing element -- and one that the writer suggests plays to the disadvantage of WiMax -- is that LTE has the brightest long-term future. That suggests that WiMax is an intermediate play. The problem, however, is that High Speed Packet Access and HSPA+ form a family of intermediate options that is expected to control significant market share that otherwise would go to WiMax.
The challenges facing WiMax are significant. In this post, an Informa analyst expands on the idea that WiMax has short-term (HSDPA) and long-term (LTE) challengers. It begins by outlining the significant milestones that the platform has past this year, including the Sprint Nextel Xohm launch, the nod given in by key Internet players such as Google and the appearance of WiMax-capable devices. That makes the yellow flags stick out more ominously. The writer points to the disappointing performance of KT in South Korea as bad news, despite the fact that the service only uses a WiMax-like technology and there are extenuating circumstances. Still, KT is doing poorly. All of this, it seems, makes the convergence of LTE and WiMax seem like a good idea, at least from the latter's point of view.
WiMax's best bet -- besides the LTE nuptuals -- may be to focus on regions with less developed infrastructures, according to this post at Digital Lifescapes. David Deans cites a Infonetics report that says that Brazil, central and eastern Europe and India are great candidates for WiMax. The writer says that the merger of WiMax and LTE which seems to be increasingly expected will take off in Japan in 2011.