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WiMAX has a huge head start on Mobile-Fi; even its ‘e’ version is at least a year ahead of its rival, and the industry support behind it is gathering pace rapidly. Also, it is a technology that can be accommodated relatively easily by the mobile operators (Figure 6.6).
3G Cellular Technologies
Unlike the popular view that WiMAX does not compete with 3G cellular, or the more audacious view by cellular operators that WiMAX will be a non-starter or will be too late to topple or even
Figure 6.6 WiMAX, WLAN and 3G value analysis
impact 3G, WiMAX overlaps cellular technology significantly, and every cellular operator will have to consider WiMAX seriously. Further carrier WiMAX initiatives will not only impact service providers but are capable of disrupting the entire carrier ecosystem, including infrastructure and access device makers, phone vendors and even chip makers.
Every cellular operator (who does not want WiMAX to be a reason to go out of business) is going to have to consider WiMAX in their strategic planning. WiMAX is a serious threat to 3G because of its broadband capabilities, distance capabilities and its ability to support voice effectively with full QoS. This makes it an alternative to cellular in a way that Wi-Fi can never be, so that, while operators are integrating Wi-Fi into their offerings with some alacrity, looking to control both the licensed spectrum and the unlicensed hotspots, they will have more problems accommodating WiMAX.
WiMAX is likely to offer better performance than 3G where ubiquitous coverage and high mobility are not a priority. However, as with Wi-Fi, it will be better for them to cannibalize their own networks than let independents do it for them, especially as economics and performance demands force them to incorporate IP into their systems. Service providers that have 3G spectrum and services can offer an overlaid WiMAX broadband service targeted towards fixed, portable and nomadic subscribers with alternative devices such as laptops.
WiMAX could ‘bridge the gap’ between applications designed for high-capacity landline networks and the mobile broadband wireless networks. Handset makers such as Nokia will be banking on this as they develop smartphones that support WiMAX as well as 3G.
WiMAX can slash the single biggest cost of deployment for 3G: access charges for linking a cell to a local phone or cable network. A standards-based long distance technology will avoid many of the problems of high upfront costs, lack of roaming and unreliability that those ahead-of-their-time pioneers encountered, but it will still need to gain market share rapidly before 3G takes an unassailable hold. Given the current slow progress of 3G, especially in Europe, and the unusually streamlined process of commercializing WiMAX, the carriers are indulging in wishful thinking when they say nothing can catch up with cellular (Table 6.2).
6.5 GET READY FOR DISRUPTION
‘802.16 is the most important thing since the Internet itself’ - Intel The displacement of telegraphy by telephony offers insights into a process of innovation and product market competition that lies
Table 6.2 Comparison of 2.5 and 3G technologies and WiMAX
Metric Edge HSPDA 1 x EVDO 802.16-2004 802.16e
Technology family TDMA GMSK and WCDMA (5 MHz) CDMA2K QPSK OFDM/OFDMA Scalable OFDMA
and modulation 8-PSK QPSK and 16 QAM and 16 QAM QPSK, 16 QAM QPSK, 16 QAM
and 64 QAM and 64 QAM
Peak data rate 473 kbps 10.8 Mbps 2.4 Mbps 75 Mbps (20 MHz 75 Mbps (max)
channel) 18 Mbps
(5 MHz channel)
Average user T-put <130 kbps <750 kbps initially <140 kbps 1-3 Mbps 80 % performance
throughput of fixed usage
Range outdoor 2-10 km 2-10 km 2-10 km 2-10 km 2-7 km
Channel BW 200 KHz 5 MHz 1.25 MHz Scalable 1.5-20 MHz Scalable 1.5-20 MHz
at the heart of the next wave of growth in wireless. To grow faster than the market a company needs to win new, and typically more demanding, customers. This drives companies to work hard to ‘catch up’ with the needs of these more demanding market tiers.