Analysis: WiMAX faces competition from HSPA, not LTE

Industry analysis firm In-Stat this week released a worldwide "state of the union" for 4G networks, finding that though WiMAX has a strong lead in deployments, it won't even be competing with LTE when that standard starts to be rolled out.

In-Stat analyst Daryl Schoolar says, "Most of the operators looking to deploy WiMAX come to it from the fixed network space. These operators are looking to use WiMAX as an enhanced DSL service. Enhanced DSL will combine both the fixed broadband service with some form of nomadic coverage."

LTE, on the other hand, is being supported by mobile operators who do not expect deployments to begin until 2011 or 2012. So what should they do in the meantime?

This week, we heard from Chinese wireless infrastructure company ZTE which announced it had made the first EV-DO Rev. B VoIP call on a CDMA2000 system. The company claims that with a simple software upgrade, it can boost EV-DO Rev. A as much as 6.2 Mbps to a potential 9.3 Mbps downstream and 5.4 Mbps upstream. This theoretical jump in speed far outstrips the increase that took place when going from Rev. 0 to Rev. A, which only amounted to 700 Kbps.

In-Stat, however, sees the real competition to WiMAX coming from HSPA, with HSPA Evolved acting as a stopgap between WCDMA mobile operators' current networks and their eventual LTE deployments.

Ericsson is a major provider of mobile broadband hardware, and we spoke with the company at CES in January about the progress of HSPA worldwide.

At the time, Mats Norin, Ericsson's vice president of mobile broadband modules said, "We can see clear trends all over the world with mobile broadband, especially based on HSPA. We have operators in more than 100 countries running more than 200 networks. We're seeing extremely good progress when it comes to rolling out: a lot of devices, and the number of HSPA subscribers has increased 5x over the last year, which I think is a fantastic figure. [Ericsson has] been in the business two and a half years, and you can find our products online or in the shops, included in notebooks from LG, Dell, Lenovo, and Toshiba."

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