Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Ultra Mobile Broadband is Dead on Arrival

The prospects for even moderate adoption of the Qualcomm 4G technology called UMB (Ultra Mobile Broadband) are dim, according to a new market study from ABI Research.

But Qualcomm's intellectual property portfolio is still promising in key enabling technologies for 4G, and the company faces no real threat to its long-term future -- even without successful UMB network rollouts. Again, according to ABI's recent assessment.

The technology is expected to be commercially available by mid-2009, but senior analyst Nadine Manjaro, says "No operator has yet announced plans to trial or deploy UMB. Several of the major CDMA operators in the two primary markets are migrating to other technologies. Vendors cannot move forward with development unless their customers commit to trial this technology."

WiMAX and LTE have ecosystems in place that offer support. LTE, which is expected to be available around 2010, already has operator commitment from Vodafone and Verizon. WiMAX has implemented many trials, and has over fifty commercial deployments underway.

ABI Research believes Qualcomm's biggest potential market for UMB is in Asia, but many operators there are considering WiMAX or are still focused on 3G. Regardless, ABI also believes that UMB is unlikely to make much progress or significant revenue there.

However Qualcomm has diversified its product portfolio by acquiring companies with OFDMA and MIMO patents (Flarion, for example) and has also developed chipsets for W-CDMA/HSPA technology. Therefore, ABI believes that it will hopfully still be a strong industry player without UMB.

"While Qualcomm has made many significant contributions to mobile communications," concludes Manjaro, "in this case we just have to be realistic. Vendors need to step up and say that they aren't going to invest any more resources in developing this technology, since there is virtually no demand for it."

ABI Research's new report provides a detailed analysis of the state of CDMA and the potential opportunities for UMB. It analyzes why Qualcomm has not been able to gain traction for UMB, and discusses Qualcomm's strategy to diversity its product portfolio and attempt to guarantee its future opportunities outside of UMB.