Sprint added 1.7 million WiMAX subscribers in Q2 (mostly wholesaled from Clearwire), while Verizon added 1.2 million LTE subscribers in the same time period. Long-time analyst Paul Kapustka tracked the WiMAX win over at Sidecut Reports, but he’s the only person I’ve seen report the comparison. Instead, most of the press has focused solely on Clearwire’s announcement that it’s planning to add LTE services to its portfolio. That’s great. Fantastic. But reporters have been using it to pit LTE against WiMAX, and to extend the odd “WiMAX is dead” narrative. WiMAX is not dead. And not only is it not dead, but there are several reasons to applaud the technology’s success.
- WiMAX was first out of the gate in the US. I started using it in Philly back in 2009.
- Competition is good. Even though Clearwire is shifting away from retail sales, it pioneered the no-contract 4G service, which was enough to get me to give 4G a trial run. And Sprint maintains an unlimited data plan with its WiMAX service, something other carriers have refused to do.
- The Sprint/Clearwire push for WiMAX deployments has sped up network upgrades across all US carriers, bringing us more 4G access on a faster timeline than we would have had otherwise.
- Although we focus on mobile WiMAX here in the States, fixed WiMAX technology has been a boon in numerous emerging markets around the world, particularly in areas where wireline broadband connectivity isn’t available. (The WiMAX Forum reports there are currently WiMAX deployments in 150 different countries.)
- There is overlap in WiMAX and LTE technology, which means lessons learned in WiMAX development can be applied in further LTE rollouts. Even as Clearwire starts adding LTE services, it will rely on much of the technology it’s already deployed with WiMAX.
So why all the WiMAX haters? I don’t know. LTE is great, but WiMAX continues to play an important role in American and global network upgrades to 4G. And that’s worth a little recognition.