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Wimax and LTE still slugging it out

MWC Barcelona Seconds out... round two
Wed Feb 18 2009, 00:01

A SELECT PANEL of execs and techspurts discussing the potential of Wimax wireless technology versus LTE's saw opinions split across the board today at MWC, with Intel's band of merry Wimax supporters plugging its technology until literally blue in the face, whilst those siding with LTE smugly sat back with a 'wait-and-see' attitude.

"We're investing in both technologies," noted a Motorola exec, Fred White, diplomatically. It seemed to be a running panel theme. Nokia exec, Markku Ellila added, "It is important to us that Wimax succeeds as a complementary technology offering to 3GPP technologies".


We're pretty sure we heard Intel's Sean Maloney growl at that point but, then again, just before breakfast, it could well have been his stomach.

What was abundantly clear was that Chipzilla was dearly wishing neither the recession nor LTE currently existed, as Maloney did his utmost to nonchalantly shrug off talks of competition.

Intel's Veep could take some comfort, however, in the words of Cisco's exec, who noted his firm had been increasing its investment in Wimax radio access as well as what he called, "Wimax as a system solution". The Cisco techspert waxed lyrical about Intel's wireless virtues, making all kinds of arse-kissing remarks about how the technology "created a pervasive experience of network connectivity" and other marketing speak we decided not to publish.


Motorola also fessed up to having a $500 million bet on Wimax, with Fred White saying the firm had seen "tremendous growth in Wimax customers" and that, so far "business has been good", but he seemed reluctant to commit to a more monogamous relationship.

Alvarion's Tzvika Friedman added his two cents to the discussion by noting how many billions had already been invested in the technology by a plethora of companies and said, "Wimax is here, it's working, it's giving a good business case to our customers and colleagues".

But Friedman's view wasn't shared by everyone. Most on the panel seemed to be biding their time and humouring the Wimax mongerers, knowing full well LTE technology was really still a good three to five years out. Some even said they believed LTE might eventually become the main wireless technology for mobiles, whilst Wimax would probably fizzle out in the nomadic space and return to its fixed roots.

Maloney admitted that many in the LTE business had leapfrogged in using Wimax to get a good head start and that Wimax would probably have to co-exist with LTE whether Intel liked the situation or not. At some point in the future, the optimists on the panel reckoned a convergence might happen, but many agreed that was still a long way off.

Whether Wimax would eventually win out over LTE or not, what the panel did all seem to agree on was the fact that, whichever technology anyone eventually chose, it was actually all down to the operator's implementation of it and that even the hugest of speeds could be greatly limited by backhaul.


At the end of the day, however, the long-winded conclusion was that... it would be the operator, not the technology which would make or break the user experience.

And with that, the execs all shuffled off to breakfast. µ


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