According to new projections from ABI Research, the number of subscribers to mobile WiMAX services will approach 59 million in 2015. That represents a positive forecast in light of recent economic conditions, although research analyst Xavier Ortiz notes, “WiMAX’s growth has not been as early or as strong as many would have hoped several years ago.”
The factors impeding WiMAX’s growth haven’t been technological, he says, but economic and psychological: “The recession certainly played a role, making investors wary and delaying some deployments. On top of that, delays in the formation of the new Clearwire have constrained the rest of the ecosystem to some degree, from subscribers to devices and chipsets.”Subscriber growth and base station shipments go hand in hand, and despite uncertainty among many operators as to which mobile 4G platform – WiMAX or TD-LTE – to choose, ABI Research’s forecasts see WiMAX base station shipments continuing to grow (albeit at a slowing pace) through the current 2015 forecast period.
Ortiz adds, “Depending on the particular vendor, much of the hardware in a WiMAX base station may be re-usable for TD-LTE. Service providers adopting WiMAX but interested in upgrading their networks have been choosing those infrastructure vendors that can offer the options of staying with WiMAX (moving towards 802.16m) or moving towards TD-LTE. This creates a sense of reassurance for service providers.”
The lion’s share of the market for WiMAX base stations during 2009 was divided between four major vendors. In terms of market share Alvarion is the leader, followed quite closely by Samsung. NSN (through acquisition of Motorola’s wireless networks business) and Huawei hold third and fourth place shares, followed by ZTE and NEC at fifth and sixth place. The remainder of the market is shared among “Other” smaller vendors.