Can WiMAX Live up to the Hype?


Over the last few years, WiMAX has been hyped as the broadband wireless technology of the future, providing a single solution for a variety of applications, including last-mile fixed broadband access, wireless backhaul for cellular phone sites and as an upgrade to Wi-Fi hot spots.

However, iSuppli Corp. believes the 802.16-based WiMAX standard primarily will be limited to serving niche market applications in the near term. In each of the market segments being targeted by WiMAX, there are competing wireline and/or wireless technologies. To gain adoption, WiMAX will either have to displace a competing technology or provide a supplementary solution.

Because of this, in the near term, it will be extremely difficult for WiMAX to gain widespread penetration into the fixed and portable wireless broadband markets in developed nations.

By 2010, less than 5% of broadband subscribers will use WiMAX as a fixed wireless broadband access technology, iSuppli projects.

“With WiMAX facing tough competition from entrenched competitors, its usage over the next few years will be limited to broadband access in rural and underserved areas of the developed nations and as a backhaul technology for cell sites and public Wi-Fi hot spots,” said Jagdish Rebello, principal analyst, communication systems and components, for iSuppli.

In the portable broadband access market, WiMAX’s most potent competitor will be Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi will remain the dominant short-range wireless broadband standard over the next few years, effectively freezing out WiMAX, according to iSuppli.

In the longer term, iSuppli believes that the most significant market for WiMAX will be for mobile broadband, i.e. vehicular access to broadband services.