While many analysts have predicted LTE will be the long-term winner of the battle in terms of total number of subscribers, current data shows that the WiMAX camp has the gloating honors. The WiMAX equipment sector is up for the third consecutive quarter, signaling continuing opportunity for growth in the 4G mobile broadband technology, according to Infonetics. The number of WiMAX subscribers jumped 75 percent in 2009, to 6.8 million worldwide.
With Clearwire in the U.S. announcing strong quarterly results, Yota in Russia expanding rapidly, and others such as UQ in Japan being aggressive, the WiMAX business model seems to be working. Though we are still in the early days, WiMAX is proving to be a good fit in a range of broadband segments in developed as well as developing markets.
For mobile WiMAX backers, Clearwire’s efforts in the U.S. are being closely watched as the company said it plans to cover 120 million potential customers by the end of the year. The service has already gained more than 650,000 customers, a number that is expected to increase as its wholesale partners, including Sprint, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable, begin more aggressive marketing plans.
For LTE, the technology garnered it first commercial launch earlier this year when TeliaSonera providing service to “pilot” customers in Stockholm, Sweden, and Oslo, Norway. Domestically, Verizon Wireless has launched trial networks in Seattle and Boston, and plans to cover more than 100 million pops with commercial service by the end of the year. AT&T Mobility is also planning an aggressive LTE rollout beginning in 2011.
ABI added that it has tracked 242 WiMAX contract announcements around the world, compared with only 38 for LTE, and that WiMAX devices are currently far outpacing those supporting LTE.
So who wins? We’ll find out in due course of time. But for the moment, WiMAX is in the lead.