Mobile WIMAX beyond the propaganda

I get from time to time some magazines about technology and one of them is WIMAX Vision. I was a bit puzzled by the interview of Barry West, President of Sprint’s Xohm business unit. He told that magazine that “The WINAX horse is out of the stable and running round the track. The other horse [LTE] has at least two years to wait before he’s released (…) In WIMAX we already have over 20 [chipset] manufacturers and the people that make WIFI chips also make WIMAX chips.”

Wahoo! I said to my self, that’s impressive. But is it so? Comparing Mobile WIMAX to LTE is all very nice but where does WIMAX stands against HSPA? Let’s have a quick look at Western Europe in terms of

  • Speed
  • Device availability
  • Coverage and Customer base
  • Offers

Maximum Speed

HSPA maximum download speed is of 7.2 Mbps and 2Mbps uplink.

WIMAX offers a 4 Mbps Downlink and 2 Mbps Uplink.

WIMAX: 0 – HSPA: 1

Device availability

HTC has one WIMAX device the HTC Max 4G. That device is a dual GSM / WIMAX device.

Nokia has only one device supporting WIMAX, the tablet device N810. Nokia announced in January that the N810 WIMAX production would stop soon.  >> the article

And that’s all! There are only 2 WIMAX capable devices on the market.

As of today 249 devices are HSPA capable like:

  • Nokia : N97, 5800 XpressMusic, E71, etc.
  • Samsung : i8910 Omnia HD, etc.
  • Sony Ericsson : Idou, XPERIA X1. etc.
  • HTC : Magic, Touch Diamond 2, etc.
  • Toshiba : TG01, Portégé G810
  • Etc.

WIMAX: 0 – HSPA: 1

Coverage and customer base

Let’s have a look at the current deployments of WIMAX across EMEA. There are only five mobile WIMAX networks up and running:

  • Germany – NeckarCom Telekommunikation GmbH which covers the city of ULM
  • Ireland – National University of Ireland, Maynooth which covers the campus
  • Italy – Linkem S.p.a which covers 4 regions out of 20 >> Linkem coverage
  • Netherlands – Aerea which covers the inner city of Amsterdam >> Aerea website
  • UK – Freedom4 covers a few communities >> Freedom4 coverage
UK and Italy Wimnax coverage

UK and Italy Wimax coverage

All these networks have a very limited coverage.

In comparison there are around 16 M subscribers at HSPA networks in Western Europe among 60 operators  (source : Informa Telecom and Media).

WIMAX: 0 – HSPA : 1


Maybe WIMAX will enable operators to offer very competitive packages and spread mobile broadband across the population. AEREA (Netherlands) offers a maximum speed of 8Mbps indoor and outdoor. A typical offer is 2Mbps download and 256Kbs upload for €14.95/month with no data cap.

KPN offers a mobile broadband HSPA 7.2 Mbps with a 4GB cap at 20 € per month. Given the wider coverage of KPN (all the Netherlands) compared to the AEREA one (Amsterdam inner city only), the two offers are very similar.

WIMAX: 1 – HSPA: 1

As a conclusion … WIMAX: 1 – HSPA: 4

Mobile WIMAX is far from catching up with HSPA in Western Europe.

Another way of boosting the adoption of Mobile WiMax would be to include WiMax chips along with WiFi in every PC at the same cost. But are PC manufacturers ready to pay for it when there is no infrastructure ready? Even  if the WIMAX chipset cost achieve an amazing 8$, will PC manufacturers increase their BOM cost for a risky ROI? And what about handsets? >> see article on WIMAX chips

Nevertheless WIMAX is an interesting technology for fixed broadband where cable or ADSL infrastructures are poor or non existent: remote European regions, developing countries, etc.

Without Europe backing Mobile WIMAX, there are doubts wether Mobile WIMAX will reach the momentum and be a truly mobile technology.


One thought on “Mobile WIMAX beyond the propaganda

  1. Pingback: Wimax dying as a mobile technology « Bertrand Issard's Blog

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