US WiMAX Adoption Still Faces Many Hurdles

MONTREAL, CANADA AND MIAMI, FLORIDA Short-term opportunities with broadband wireless access (BWA)/WiMAX will most likely benefit licensed and unlicensed Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs), according to a new report from Maravedis ( According to the first edition of "Opportunities and Challenges for Broadband Wireless and WiMAX in the USA," such short-term opportunities will not generate massive adoption. Yet they will contribute to building credibility of the WiMAX business case. The "tipping point" for greater WiMAX adoption will most likely be in 2009 to 2010.

At the end of 2007, there were more than 5000 licenses in the combined BWA frequency bands (BRS, EBS, WCS, and AWS) in the US. By 2013, non-Sprint-Nextel WiMAX subscribers will grow from a half-million at the end of 2007 to more than 10 million. In 2012, however, long-term evolution (LTE) is expected to be the dominant mobile broadband technology with trials starting in 2010. The development of a proper device ecosystem and application platforms for mobile broadband applications is still a challenge for LTE and WiMAX. Although opportunities for WiMAX in the 700-MHz bands are real, Maravedis does not expect them to start materializing until at least 2010.

According to Tim Sanders, co-author of the report, "The conventional wisdom is that there are only two operators in the US with a mobile BWA/WiMAX opportunitynamely, Sprint- Nextel and Clearwire. In terms of mobile BWA/ WiMAX, they clearly have the best opportunity. However, our research indicates there are more opportunities for other service providers in both fixed/portable and mobile broadband wireless than previously thought." On the other hand, IEEE 802.16e-2005, commonly called "mobile WiMAX," faces many hurdles.

"Sprint-Nextel does not have sufficient leverage to build a nationwide WiMAX network without additional external funding. One first scenario is a spinoff of its WiMAX unit while retaining ownership of the spectrum. The second scenario is for Sprint to execute a slower build-out than previously announced, along with a more modest CAPEX investment," said Adlane Fellah, CEO of Maravedis. "A third or complementary scenario is to use only part of the spectrum for WiMAX, leaving room for LTE," said Robert Syputa, senior analyst at Maravedis. To find out more about this report, please visit

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