New data from TeleGeography’s 4G Research Service show that there were more than 600 WiMAX networks either live or at the planning/deployment stage by the end of 2009. The number of WiMAX deployments significantly exceeds HSPA and LTE deployments. Only around 300 cellular networks have been upgraded with HSPA technology and fewer than 70 operators have committed to deploying LTE equipment.
However, only a relatively small number of these WiMAX systems offer wide coverage areas; most only offer local or regional service. Late 2009 saw the introduction of the world’s first commercial LTE networks, with TeliaSonera beginning to offer limited services in Stockholm and Oslo, and 2010 is expected to bring further service launches in Europe, the US and Asia. TeleGeography analyst Peter Bell comments, “While the footprint of WiMAX worldwide is still growing steadily, LTE deployments should gain momentum in 2010 and 2011. With LTE receiving strong backing from major cellular operators and equipment vendors, we project that LTE subscribers will ramp up far more quickly than WiMAX subscribers.”
Nevertheless, WiMAX will continue to grow. There is still significant demand for wireless broadband access in developing countries and in rural areas of developed markets. Moreover, the next incarnation of WiMAX – 802.16m – is already on the horizon and promises to arrive well ahead of the next generation of LTE. Said Bell, “The answer to the question ’LTE or WiMAX?’ is both. LTE and WiMAX both have roles to play, and both technologies will be with us for years to come.”
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