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WiMAX Finding Substantive Applications

When ABI Research's last annual study of WiMAX was published at the end of 2004, the hype around the new wireless broadband technology was flying thick and fast. Performance claims of 75 Mbps speeds at distances up to 30 miles (48 km) were common.

Fast-forward a year, and much of that hype has been replaced by a more realistic assessment of WiMAX's performance and role. According to the study's author, senior analyst Philip Solis, "Those who made extravagant performance claims were just trying to get the wheels of the WiMAX bandwagon moving. Today, most commentators have no problem admitting that real-world speeds, depending as they do on the number of users per base station sector and their distance from the base-station, will be far slower than media reports had previously suggested."

Given this new sense of realism, some question the need for WiMAX, certainly for 802.16e mobile WiMAX. In a recent press release, another ABI Research analyst, Alan Varghese, noted the nagging question: since they appear to meet many of the same demands, do we really need both cellular services and WiMAX?

In reply, Solis says that "Mobile WiMAX will eventually form part of cellular providers' networks, alleviating network congestion in urban areas. Providers will use it to offload part of the data traffic. At the same time, WiMAX is becoming a stepping-stone to 4G mobile services, which will be based on related technologies."

"WISPS such as TowerStream and Clearwire will start offering services first," says Solis. "When they change to it, that will kickstart the competition for cellular operators. However, these companies will only begin their migration when the cost of WiMAX equipment drops below that of the proprietary solutions they use now."

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