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January 30, 2009

WiMAX vs. LTE Fight Gets Nasty

By Rich Tehrani, President and Editor-in-Chief

Originally posted on Communications and Technology Blog -, here:

The news flow regarding WiMAX (News - Alert) these past months has been like a Rocky movie with Rocky getting pummeled and not fighting back until the last round. Rocky never even bothered to put up his hands to block in the first four movies. I never understood how Mickey could teach the guy to catch a chicken but forgot to tell him to raise his hands to protect his face. But digressions aside (and just don't get me started about Rocky movies - I can recite many of them by heart - well except for the last one... What are we on Rocky XXIV now?)wink

Sometimes I feel like the ringside announcer in the fight between WiMAX and LTE (News - Alert). It seems every time there is negative WiMAX news it is a round which goes to LTE.

First there were the body blows which consisted of my article detailing how LTE is coming on strong. Then there was the comment from the Clearwire (News - Alert) CEO mentioning his company can transition to LTE from WiMAX if needed.

Then Intel wrote down its Clearwire investment and Nokia stopped making WiMAX devices and Nortel dropped its WiMAX line.

After a string of lost rounds, WiMAX is bloody, has an eye the size of a grapefruit and is a few jabs away from being down for the count.

But don't count WiMAX out just yet (cue the electric-guitar driven music backed by the sound of trumpets) it is fighting back hard.

First there was the rebuttal on the Nortel (News - Alert) relationship from Alvarion. Then there are the positive comments from Carl Ford who says "While many want me to point to LTE as the clear winner, I don't think this would be a sign of WiMAX's apocalypse." Ouch... That hurt. What's a matter LTE, you don't know how to block either?

But wait, there was a tag... What is this boxing or the WWE? And with that tag, Carl Ford (News - Alert) leaves the ring and bruiser Scenna Tabesh, director of marketing communications for the WiMAX Forum, (From her picture she looks like a lovely woman and I hope she doesn't mind playing along) steps into the ring and says, "Conversely, LTE currently has zero dployments. While marketed as an "evolution," LTE networks are a completely new upgrade." Smack! What's a matter LTE, did Mickey train you too?

But with LTE stunned, Tabesh takes the opportunity to land an uppercut which LTE was just not expecting. She says, "While WiMAX is already in deployment, new spectrum or the re-farming of wide swaths of 2G spectrum will be necessary to free up spectrum to deploy LTE and take advantage of the wider channel bandwidths that are supported. LTE will also take time to roll out, with deployments forecast to reach limited adoption by 2012. LTE networks will require new client devices and service providers will need to purchase new radio access network (RAN) equipment in addition to upgrading their core networks to handle additional IP-based traffic."

Are you kidding me? What a fight! And to think I almost skipped this to watch the Super Bowl.

And it's just getting started. If you are a service provider, you need to be up on the play by play. Ignoring it could cost your job or future competitiveness. The 4G space is changing faster than any other technology I have ever seen. Momentum is shifting in Titanic-sized amounts to each camp and the battle will only get more interesting as time goes on.

But how will it end? Will it be a draw? Will WiMAX lose? The only thing we know for sure is after five Rocky movies; I still have no idea what he said in any of them.

The latest and most important round in this fight will be held next week at the 4GWE conference in Miami - conveniently collocated with ITEXPO. We are going to need a really tough referee for this one. Hope to see you there.

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