Analysts: WiMAX will lag, and LTE might catch up

Could the current financial crunch push back additional WiMAX deployments to 2010, the same time frame projected earlier for LTE, the 4G network adopted by AT&T and Verizon Wireless? That's what one analyst group said this week.

"Mobile WiMAX revenues were very strong in the third quarter of last year, and we anticipate revenue for the fourth quarter to hit another record," according to Scott Siegler, senior analyst of mobile infrastructure research at Dell'Oro Group. "However, as we look into 2009, we expect the WiMAX market to be hit rather hard by the economic downturn."

Pointing to factors such as weakening consumer spending and the increasing cost of capital, Siegler predicted that multimillion dollar network deployments will be put on hold or delayed into 2010.

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"With initial LTE rollouts coming in the 2010 to 2011 time frame, these delays will shorten the time to market advantage WiMAX currently has over LTE," the analyst added.

As previously reported in Betanews, Sprint entered commercial deployment with WiMAX in parts of Baltimore last fall, and Clearwire did likewise in the city of Portland, Oregon in January.

Clearwire -- an entity that now holds the WiMAX assets of Sprint, as well -- had earlier voiced plans to roll out commercial WiMAX services in Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Grand Rapids, MI during 2009.

Despite Dell'Oro's gloomy forecast for WiMAX, other factors are at play that would seem to favor early deployment. The combined Clearwire/Sprint venture is already receiving $3.2 billion in funding from companies with usually deep pockets, including Intel, Google, and cable service providers Comcast, Time Warner, and Bright House Networks. The WiMAX merger got the FCC's blessing in the fall.

Dell'Oro's report also contends that the top four mobile WiMAX vendors during the fourth quarter -- Samsung, Motorola, Alcatel-Lucent, and Alvarion -- together accounted for more than 90% of the mobile WiMAX market.

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