WiMAX Uptake Still Growing, Survey Finds

Michelle Maisto covers mobile devices, Android and Apple for eWEEK and is also a food writer.

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The battle between LTE and WiMAX is still going strong after a report found that WiMAX subscriptions are now approximately four million strong

The battle continues between LTE and WiMAX over which technology will dominate 4G networks, after a new report found that WiMAX is still showing healthy growth.

According to an report from analyst firm Maravedis, WiMAX subscriber growth in the second quarter of 2009 increased 16.5 percent over the first quarter, showing a 74 percent year-over-year growth since the second quarter of 2008. This brought the total of worldwide subscribers to approximately 4 million worldwide.

“Global service revenue growth is going up as WiMAX operators experience increases in subscriber growth, and the gradual appreciation of most currencies against the [U.S. dollar],” said Maravedis CEO Adlane Fellah, in a statement.

In the second quarter, WiMAX average revenue per user (ARPU), according to Maravedis, was $39.50 (£24.18) for residential customers and $121.80 (£74.57) for business segments.

Earlier in the year, ABI Research predicted that WiMAX subscriber revenue would grow by 4,500-plus percent in 2009. The firm stated in a March report that, “WiMAX has many growth opportunities beyond traditional mobile operator networks, including data-centric deployments in both developed and developing regions.”

The rush to 4G is largely due to increased demands on wireless networks, particularly as the iPhone has ushered in a new precedent for mobile device use and demands on data networks.

“The higher demands imposed by open Internet access on web phones and laptops pushes incumbent operators to LTE and greenfield operators to more rapid returns for WiMAX deployments,” said Robert Syputa, a senior analyst with Maravedis.

“With additional spectrum hard to come by, this is likely to pull in the time frame for conversions of existing spectrum. Operator’s thinking shows early signs of shifting.”

In July, ABI additionally noted what might be called, if not a shift, then a new trend: satellite communications operators planning to offer dual-mode satellite and cellular phones as a way of taking advantage of 4G-friendly spectrum and positioning themselves to be purchased by future LTE deployers, such as AT&T.

AT&T has announced plans to conduct LTE trials in 2010, with deployments in 2011, while John Killian, vice president of competitor Verizon Wireless, has said his company will conduct LTE trials in Seattle and Boston this year and plans to launch commercial LTE service in up to 30 markets in 2010.

Maravedis reports that of the top 35 mobile operators committed to LTE, 37 percent report planning a commercial rollout in 2010, 29 percent in 2011, 25 percent in 2012, and 9 percent have yet to confirm a timeframe.

On the WiMAX front, which is currently dominated by Clearwire, which Sprint owns the majority share of, 45 new devices obtained WiMAX Forum certification between June and September. These included 18 notebooks, 4 wireless PC cards, 12 USB dongles and 3 chipsets.

More recently, Sprint has been rumored to have a 4G smartphone in the works, which reportedly would run Android and launch in 2010.