WiMAX Gets a Big Win

Big ideas are at their best when they're, well, big. WiMAX, a big idea backed by Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) , among others, got bigger yesterday, when three vendors, including Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR  ) , successfully tested roaming in Taiwan, according to the WiMAX Forum.

The test is a breakthrough for two reasons:

  1. It proves that WiMAX is capable of becoming not only a wireless broadband standard, but also a cellular telephony alternative.
  2. It gives disparate providers reason to unite, which could attract further investment in WiMAX networks globally.

Investors are more concerned with the second point than the first, and for good reason: WiMAX's greatest challenge is that there is no commonly agreed-upon spectrum for deployment. That problem can now be addressed via the sorts of roaming workarounds tested in Taiwan this week.

What's more, Mobile WiMAX is a common technical standard. Cisco's (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) WiMAX routers should play nicely with Alvarion's (Nasdaq: ALVR  ) BreezeMax equipment. The bigger issue, network integration, could become easier to solve now that the WiMAX Forum is actively promoting roaming via a website: wimaxroaming.org.

But the clock is ticking. Both AT&T (NYSE: T  ) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) back a competing technology known as LTE, which stands for Long-Term Evolution. LTE promises to merge high-speed data access with high-quality telephony, but do so via legacy carrier networks. AT&T has said it plans LTE deployments beginning in 2011.

WiMAX today is a bigger idea this week than it was last week, but its race to beat LTE is anything but over.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of Alvarion at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy lives life without wires, and suggests you do the same.


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  • Report this Comment On October 28, 2009, at 8:06 AM, cdspuckler wrote:

    Traditional telephony (i.e. the old line telcos) have a long history of closed, proprietary, costly networks. In the past (and perhaps still), their idea of competition meant in the congress, state houses, and court rooms of America. Only when forced to compete (thank you cable) do we finally get something remotely resembling high speed, open, networks. Given this, let us root for Wimax and its quick and successful deployment. If for nothing else, to insure that we get more true competition, innovation, open networks, and price drops.

    My $0.02

    Be well folks.

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2009, at 2:36 PM, conradsands wrote:

    LTE is far behind WiMAX in its deployment. I'd be surprised if it ever comes near what WiMAX has deployed up to now. If LTE hits some major technical issues before deployment, it could set it back even more. WiMAX appears to be a superb technology for addressing the needs of bandwidth-hogging applications over wireless networks.

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