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WiMAX Market Status and Forecasts

25 августа 2009

2008 was an eventful year that considerably affected the broadband wireless industry. One of the most important events was the agreement signed between Sprint Nextel and Clearwire combining their wireless broadband and WiMAX businesses. We saw the official announcement of XOHM by Sprint in September 2008 and later on in Q4 2008 the launch of “Clear” - the mobile WiMAX service resulting from the Sprint-Clearwire venture. 2008 also witnessed the acceleration of long-term evolution by its new champion, Verizon.

LTE is gaining momentum and will be the technology selected by most mobile operators worldwide moving forward. Today nearly 450 operators are deploying or trialing WiMAX, and there are more than 120 operators committed to LTE, including many CDMA operators. Not many WiMAX operators are committed to deploying LTE at present, although they are keeping an eye on the technology. At this point, the introduction of LTE is too far down the road to be adopted by many WiMAX operators, which already are investing large sums in the technology they have available today and are taking advantage of the spectrum they already hold.Approximately 1.45 million BWA/WiMAX subscribers worldwide were added in 2008, while the WCDMA subscriber base increased by more than 90 million. The average quarter-over-quarter subscriber growth rate in 2008 was 21.5%. At the end of December 2008, 4GCounts counted over 3.16 million BWA/WiMAX subscribers - a 15% growth from Q3 2008 and an 87% growth from Q4 2007. With a monthly residential ARPU of U.S. $43.84 and business ARPU of U.S. $122.69, the worldwide subscriber base generated estimated quarterly revenues of U.S. $522 million. Residential subscribers (68%) continue to dominate the number of business subscribers (32%).The financial crisis affected the deployment plans of many operators, increased the sales cycle and increased the risk perception toward WiMAX in 2008. We also saw major vendors abandoning, selling or restructuring their WiMAX business divisions. Vendors such as Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia and Nortel were some of the vendors that changed their WiMAX business strategies, either exiting the market altogether or refocusing their R&D spending toward LTE.As demand for mobile broadband continues to grow, we are seeing great operator interest in LTE because it can deliver data at a lower cost per bit. In fact, a recent Maravedis study found that among the top 22 WiMAX operators, 42% are considering or planning to deploy LTE. While LTE networks are yet to become commercial, vendors have stepped up availability of the prerequisite network planning tools and testing and measurement systems. Multimode ICs and LTE devices are scheduled to become available starting later in 2009. Progress has been made both on 3G LTE systems and on the next-generation LTE-Advanced version.Challenges AheadOperators are facing many challenges today as they deploy their networks.The unfavorable global economic climate is a major concern. These financial conditions are affecting credit markets worldwide; consumer confidence and spending have decreased, as has demand for wireless products and services. Weak economic conditions will lower profitability and adversely affect the results of WiMAX operations this year, as well as many operators’ deployment plans. Although most of the operators covered in this report have the support of strong investor groups and deep pockets to offset limited credit facilities, they still are impacted by the crisis.
Some operators are feeling the pressure of not having the right spectrum - or even sufficient spectrum - to achieve their plans. They have been forced to delay rollouts as they hope to obtain additional spectrum assets, either by allocation from regulators or by acquisition or transfer from other license holders. Adding to this problem, some regulators, such those as in India, have yet again delayed spectrum allocations.
Market Forecasts 2009 - 2014The global economic crisis has impacted investment levels in many different business and technology propositions and has forced the top WiMAX operators to adopt a cautious approach. 2009-2010 will be a tough period for the entire WiMAX ecosystem. Given the economic uncertainty, wireless capex by most of the top operators is predicted to decline this year. Still, we expect the number of WiMAX subscribers to more than double by the end of 2009 and reach approximately 4 million by the end of 2010. We do not expect to see much activity around LTE outside of China Telecom, DoCoMo and Verizon until mid-2012 or early 2013 because most of the operators that have committed to LTE have deployment road maps scheduled around that time. We believe that LTE will continue to be the path followed by most 3G operators. Although WiMAX operators are not showing significant interest in LTE at the moment, it is possible that some might plan deployments in the 2.5 GHz band in the future, if suitable equipment becomes available.The fundamental question about WiMAX is this: Can it ramp up to volumes that enable it to compete in a wireless world ruled by huge volumes of cellular phone sales? WiMAX and future wireless networks that aspire to offer 4G services will attempt to become unified communications systems that fit diverse markets and have very different sets of customers and requirements. The common architecture is supposed to result in an overall advance in technology and a reduction in costs - the so-called “virtuous circle” enabled by a large ecosystem.• Maravedis predicts that there will be an accumulated 75 million WiMAX subscribers by the end of 2014.
• The key strategic countries will account for more than 75% of these BWA/WIMAX subscribers by 2013.
• The 802.16e-2005 share of new WiMAX subscribers will peak in 2012 and be dominated by mobile devices with embedded wireless modems.
• The WiMAX equipment market, which includes active WiMAX subscribers, will reach an annual U.S. $4 billion in 2014, from over U.S. $2billion at the end of 2008.
• Service revenues generated by broadband wireless services will reach U.S. $15 billion in 2014.
By Adlane Fellah, CEO, Maravedis

Источник: 4G Trends

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