Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Harmonizing WiMAX and LTE

Participants from both the WiMAX and LTE camp and IEEE and ETSI 3GPP standards organizations seem to be of a mindset that a common air interface for both Long Term Evolution and WiMAX would be a good thing. Vodafone, for example, is calling for the merging of WiMAX and LTE.

Count Intel as a proponent of such harmonization as well.

These proposals point out a key fact about both WiMAX and LTE: they simply are wireless broadband platforms. The differentiation will come only as differentiated business models can be created. It probably is inevitable that in the early going the volume will be in "DSL and cable modem substitution" and "alternative to 3G mobile broadband."

LTE, though, is in a different strategic position. Its backers can assume they essentially are looking at a next-generation network that will, over time, port existing customers and business models over to the new platform.

WiMAX, in North America, has to create space for itself by stealing some share from other existing contestants. That's why the pressure to position on one hand as a fixed line alternative and on the other hand as "better 3G" will be irresistable. If that is all WiMAX does, it will not be as successful as many hope. The compellingly different positioning is "mobile Internet," with all that implies about openness, applications heterogeneity, pricing and packaging.

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