Although WiMAX technology has been making a lot of headlines recently, commercial networks are still fairly thin on the ground. All that is set to change this year with the expected introduction of the first certified Mobile WiMAX systems, which are based on the IEEE 802.16e standard. The new systems will take the wide-area wireless internet offered by the fixed version of WiMAX – which basically acts as a wire-free alternative to fixed broadband systems such as DSL and cable – and add mobility. The new breed of WiMAX networks promise a 4G mobile service while many cellular operators are still working on their 3G networks.
According to TeleGeography’s WiMAX Market Tracking Service, there were still just 37 WiMAX networks in commercial service at the end of December 2006, up from ten a year earlier. The bulk of these use the fixed variant of the technology, offering high speed internet services to outlying areas which are not covered by wired networks. That is why developing countries are showing as much interest in WiMAX as more developed markets; unlike 3G, which is aimed at high-end cellular users, WiMAX is a technology for the masses.
Besides those which have launched a commercial service, scores of firms are deploying or planning new networks, and dozens more hold WiMAX-capable spectrum but have still to develop concrete rollout plans. Many will be waiting to see how 802.16e technology develops this year, although some – like Sprint Nextel in the US – have already taken the plunge and announced major deployments. A handful of companies have gone even further and have launched networks which employ pre-certified Mobile WiMAX equipment. The full certification of 802.16e gear should see the floodgates open, however, and WiMAX will jump out of the headlines and onto the streets.
TeleGeography’s WiMAX Market Tracking Service provides a comprehensive view on worldwide WiMAX deployments, licensing, trials, equipment contracts, and coverage plans by country. Each quarter, subscribers receive a concise market review and an updated spreadsheet following hundreds of WiMAX deployments around the world. For more information visit http://www.telegeography.com/products/wimax/