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Moto: WiMax making an impact

For more on Motorola’s WiMax efforts, see Telephony’s 4G Race topic page

Networks division far outperforms handsets as broadband wireless deployments scale up

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Motorola hasn’t released any sales figures specific to WiMax, but it has landed many of the world’s major WiMax and broadband wireless contracts, including a major piece of Clearwire’s nationwide rollout in the US. Motorola was originally Clearwire’s sole vendor, but it was also named one of three vendors in Sprint’s Xohm deployment, which has since been combined with Clearwire. In Chicago alone, Motorola has rolled out more than 600 base stations in preparation for launch later this year. Moto gear is also powering Clearwire’s live network in Portland.

According to Maravedis, Motorola is the leader in both mobile WiMax and legacy broadband wireless deployments through sales of its Canopy point-to-multipoint product. At the end of September, Maravedis analyst Adlane Fellah said, Motorola had deployed more than 1 million customer premises equipment units and almost 31,000 base stations across all broadband wireless technologies. While Alvarion is still the leader in fixed WiMax deployments with 433,000 CPEs deployed, Motorola is the clear leader in mobile WiMax, with 235,000 CPEs in the market compared to Alvarion’s 35,000.

The big question, Fellah said, is whether WiMax will turn into a major global market or be completely overshadowed by LTE—Motorola is the clear leader in a market that has yet to take off. Other vendors, like Nortel Networks, have dropped out of the WiMax market completely in order to pursue the bigger opportunities in LTE. Motorola has its own LTE portfolio and has been busy conducting trials in hopes of winning contracts not just with GSM operators transitioning to LTE but also with CDMA operators making the jump to GSM’s 4G evolution path. As of yet, LTE isn’t contributing anything to Moto’s revenues. Most operators aren’t expected to name their LTE vendors until later this year or next.

Even if WiMax grows into a large market, Moto runs the risk of having its leadership position upset by challengers as well as the prospect of diminishing returns on investment, said Maravedis analyst Robert Syputa. The flat IP architecture of WiMax networks and its highly standardized nature make it easy for an operator to switch from one vendor to another as well as force down the costs of deployment, Syputa said.

“WiMax network infrastructure is more open to develop into a 'best of breed' supply-chain environment with less premium paid for hardware vendors,” Syputa said. “Bottom line is that Motorola and others face a tough competitive environment as WiMax moves forward unless they can sufficiently differentiate themselves, which, given the nature of the environment and competitive field, appears unlikely at this point.”

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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