Delays in certifying WiMax broadband wireless kit could cause the technology to miss the boat, as better coverage and lower charges tempt more subscribers to sign up for 3G services over the next few years.
Few companies appear interested in developing fixed wireless broadband services based on the IEEE’s 802.16d standard. Instead, most are focused on portable versions of WiMax that will deliver broadband access to roaming users.
Although approved last week, the 802.16e standard for mobile WiMax is not due for final ratification until late 2006, and interoperability testing and certification will not begin until 2007. By that time, 3G and Wi-Fi services offering alternative sources of mobile bandwidth will be in widespread use, said Luke Thomas, senior research analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
“It will be 2008 to 2010 before WiMax handsets appear. But why will you need a WiMax handset when you are targeting the same market that already has 3G and everything else coming through?” Thomas said.
Intel will integrate WiMax chipsets into notebook PCs next year, and handheld PC and mobile phone makers are expected to follow suit. However, battery life in small devices could prove a problem. Carlton O’Neal of WiMax specialist Alvarion argued that WiMax will become a fourth-generation mobile technology, however, trumping the 2Mbit/s of new 3G services expected next year. “Speed will be WiMax’s differentiator, offering about 10Mbit/s to 20Mbit/s over five to 10 miles,” he said.