Analysts: WiMAX market rebounding quickly

Two market research and analyst firms agree that the global market for worldwide interoperability for microwave access (WiMAX) technology is rebounding rapidly.

Two market research and analyst firms agree that the global market for worldwide interoperability for microwave access (WiMAX) technology is rebounding rapidly. In early December figures from ABI Research (www.abiresearch.com), focusing on mobile WiMAX, indicated by the end of that month (and the 2009 calendar year), global subscribership to mobile WiMAX would approach 2 million.

“Over the last several years mobile WiMAX has moved through standardization, productization, and interoperability testing and certification,” the company explained. “Larger-scale network deployments are finally becoming a reality. Clearwire in the United States has already declared 173,000 subscribers; Yota in Russia has been growing at a decent rate, reaching 100,000 subscribers in August and 200,000 in October; and PacketOne in Malaysia has reached 130,000 subscribers.”

Also in December, Infonetics Research (www.infonetics.com) released a third-quarter 2009 market share and forecast report on WiMAX equipment, devices, and subscribers, including fixed and mobile.

Among the highlights of Infonetics’ quarterly report are the following.

  • The worldwide WiMAX equipment and device market topped $290 million in the quarter, which was up 11 percent sequentially.
  • Based on a huge uptick in 802.16e device revenue, Motorola more than doubled its worldwide equipment and device revenue market share for WiMAX over the second and third quarters.
  • The Europe, Middle East, and Africa region, as well as Asia-Pacific are the hotbeds of WiMAX activity, although licensing delays are hampering progress in India.
  • The researcher forecasts the equipment and device market will hit $4.97 billion by 2013, driven by developing countries.
  • Total number of WiMAX subscribers, fixed and mobile, was expected to reach 3.9 million worldwide by year-end 2009.

Richard Webb, directing analyst for WiMAX at Infonetics, stated, “The WiMAX equipment and device market is on the upswing, posting its second quarterly double-digit percentage increase in a row in the third quarter, driven by revenue growth in all regions. We expect steady growth in the market over the next four quarters as the WiMAX ecosystem continues to take shape and more devices hit the market, driving adoption through the recession.”

ABI’s practice director Philip Solis explains there can be significant differences among providers in different geographic regions. “Mobile WiMAX service providers around the world find themselves in very different situations,” he said. Some are mainly focused on fixed services for homes and businesses, while others are jumping feet first into mobile WiMAX, offering a variety of external modems, laptops, netbooks, and even handsets tied into HD multimedia services, as with Yota in Russia. Some have little fixed or mobile broadband competition, while others are competing directly against fixed and mobile broadband services.

“Some, such as Japan’s UQ Communications, are behind their buildout schedules and subscriber expectations, while others such as Clearwire are increasing the pace of their deployments because of more-than-adequate funding. Still others such as Yota in Russia are exceeding all expectations. Some are remaining local, while others such as Clearwire and Yota are building networks in more than one country.”

Earlier research from Infonetics spelled out some of the drivers for WiMAX adoption. The report “WiMAX Equipment and Subscribers in Key Markets” was issued in summer 2009. At that time Webb explained, “India, because of its scale, and the U.S., because of Clearwire’s profile, are the two most prominent markets for WiMAX, and both are absolutely critical to its fortunes.”

That study concluded that Russia is the proverbial perfect storm for WiMAX with a challenging geography, dispersed population, pent-up demand for broadband and voice services, and a population able to pay for those services. It also pointed to Brazil as “potentially one of the world’s most dynamic WiMAX markets, with a very mobile-oriented populace.” According to the study, WiMAX has the opportunity to become the primary broadband network in Brazil.

Also, many Central and Eastern European countries had WiMAX deployments underway and more than 20 operators offered Voice over Internet Protocol-over-WiMAX service, which Infonetics pointed to as a major driver of adoption.

ABI concludes its analysis with a look at a potential threat to WiMAX. “The LTE ecosystem will eventually be vastly larger than the mobile WiMAX ecosystem, but just as LTE deployments start picking up in 2011 and 2012, some 802.16e service providers will begin upgrading their networks to 802.16m.”

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