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Mobile WiMAX Market Assessment

According to IDC, the future of mobile WiMax might not be as bright as its vendors would like you to believe. This wireless broadband technology, working under the IEEE standard 802.16e, offers WiFi bandwidth with a cellular range, but will face multiple challenges on its way to the market. The line between fixed and mobile standards no longer exists, as vendors are using "mobile" technology to offer fixed services, and vice versa. Intel's 802.16e chipset, codenamed "Ofer," will be commercially available in the first half of 2007, with laptops containing the technology coming soon after. This puts Intel almost a year behind other private companies developing silicon for 802.16e, but in a much better position than it was when it introduced its embedded WiFi Centrino platform. In Europe, spectrum availability is a major problem for would-be mobile WiMax deployments, and a solution might not emerge until 2008. During that time, however, cellular and WiFi technologies will keep improving and will offer a much better economic rationale than mobile WiMax. "802.16e's supporters are pitching the technology's supremacy over other cellular broadband technologies, with issues like lower latency, more bandwidth, and a large vendor support base, but time-to-market is really the issue here," said Gilad Nass, research director at IDC EMEA Emerging Technologies Research. "In some places, such as Europe, the ground � and airwaves � will be conquered by 3.5G, leaving very little room for 802.16e. Future plans for implementing 802.16e technology in handsets seem at present to lack economic rationale, as the projected prices of 802.16e chipsets for handsets will be much higher than for a combination of 3/3.5G+WiFi."

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