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4G race is more complex than many realize

21 апреля 2009

Though a Nokia executive recently hinted that WiMAX is bound for the scrap-heap of history, the reality is much more complicated, according to Maravedis analyst Robert Syputa. What is done with the network, he contends, "is becoming more important to the end customer than the technology that runs it," meaning that "a shift in openness is needed, and will increasingly be demanded."

For most incumbent operators, the decision to move to the next generation of wireless networks is not gated by availability of equipment or devices, rather the need to move on to a new platform will require all new devices to be able to operate on this network. No existing 2G-3G device will be able to connect to any next generation WiMAX or LTE network until users swap out existing devices for multi-mode devices.

Recent announcements from leading suppliers of LTE equipment seem to be saying "here it is, come and get it," but there are still few operators committed to trials yet, let alone major network deployments. This is partly because operators are finding ways to enhance 3.5G to extend its life, which makes it easier to hold on to revenues because older handsets and dongles will still work. So long as the bandwidth and quality-of-service (QoS) demands can be met, there is not sufficient reason to move to the next network. This fact has been echoed many times by almost every major operator we have interviewed including Telecom Italia. Out of those operators committed to deploy LTE in the near term--DoCoMo, China Telecom and Verizon notable among them--none intend to erode current revenues in the process of rolling out the new networks. LTE has to wait for the market to develop and for 3G to reach its end of life before major transition is likely.

WiMAX is sometimes characterized as the network developed by the computing and broadband wireless industry, without much involvement from the wireless industry. But this is not entirely the case, as many mobile infrastructure companies have been involved in the development of the standard as the technologies, market, regulations and oversight have evolved. Wireless' move to flat IP as the platform for future development of a more truly universal communications environment necessarily pushes WiMAX and 3GPP/LTE on the same path. The fact that what is done with the network is becoming more important to the end customer than the technology that runs it (the network itself) means a shift in openness is needed, and will increasingly be demanded. Whether the mobile industry would be compelled to move towards the goal posts without competition from WiMAX urging them on is doubtful in our opinion.

Robert Syputa, Senior Analyst & Partner, Maravedis contends that WiMAX has acted as a "Trojan horse" for the wireless industry by opening up a market that has traditionally hidden behind a walled garden of exclusivity.

Источник: FierceBroadbandWireless

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