Feature Article

November 06, 2012

WiMAX Forum Gives Up On WiMAX 2.0, Promotes Competition Instead

On the losing side in the race to 4G, the WiMAX forum has given up on WiMAX 2.0, rather now promoting integration with LTE - or "the competition" as it used to be known. Not that one would speculate that from the press release, which talks a lot about "harmonization" and "coexistence" with WiMAX's now dominant competitor.

At the 4G World, Forum's President Declan Byre explained that to incorporate the competition, the standard will now be expanded. He firmly stated that this would not "open the floodgates for migrations from WiMAX.”

On LTE, WiMAX had a first-mover advantage. Recognized early by the ITU as a "4G" standard and before the LTE specification was written, it was being deployed and used well, but mainly in immobile form as back-up connectivity to companies around the New York area and elsewhere.

Image via Shutterstock

South Korean government heavily backed the mobile version, whereas in the US, as being the only 4G player in town, Clearwire saw a major marketing advantage and invested heavily in WiMAX infrastructure. Nonetheless, WiMAX was never liked by network operators.

On the other hand, since 2008, the UK regulator Ofcom has been trying to auction off 2.6GHz (a preferred WiMAX band); however, T-Mobile and O2 tied that process into so many legal knots that by the time it auctions the service, WiMAX signals will be long gone.

WiMAX was more flexible than existing technologies since it doesn't require the paired spectrum that phone networks use; however, for sending and receiving, 2G, 3G and LTE all use separate frequencies. Although this is expensive both in kit and spectrum, telecom engineers like things one "wire" for each direction.  In these days of asynchronous communications that makes no sense at all, as the upward band is empty most of the time, so WiMAX seemed a better technology.

Edited by Allison Boccamazzo

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