Monday, October 17, 2005

Qualcomm blasts WiMAX lobby

by Grahame Lynch - 13/10/2005 10:41:17
source : Daily News

Qualcomm has launched an astonishing attack on the Wi-MAX fraternity with the allegation that it has not substantiated its technical claims and has wildly under-estimated the costs of wide-area wireless network installation.

In a 32 page white paper released to worldwide telecom media yesterday, Qualcomm marketing EVP Jeff Belk has spectacularly upped the ante in his two year campaign to counter claims and what he says is "misinformation in the marketplace" about the capabilities of WiFi and WiMAX.

You can read the whitepaper for yourself by downloading it at: Or you can watch TelecomTV's recent interview with Mr Belk, in which he dismisses the WiMAX standard.

Belk's key contention is that turn-key WiMAX networks will face exactly the same costs and challenges as 3G networks when it comes to testing, the constraints of frequency wavelength on propagation, costs of tower sites and infrastructure and device availability. But they will lack the advantages of harmonised spectrum, a billion plus installed user base for mobiles and the advantage of rich streams of legacy voice revenues.

And crucially, with WiMAX standards still immature, Mr.Belk claims the major 3G standards have a massive headstart.

Belk is particularly critical of claims that WiMAX may be able to provide throughputs of up to 75Mbit/s at 50km.

"Hanaro Telecom in South Korea installed a massive amount of infrastructure and launched a WiBro (Korean Wi-MAX) network. Did they get 75Mbit/s at 50km? Nope. They got 500kbit/s to 2Mbit/s with cell sizes of 1-2km".

And even if WiMAX can become more technically competitive, Belk points to the limited use of Wi-Fi to suggest that WiMAX may struggle to become significant. He pointed to one of the large national Wi-Fi hotspot providers in the US, which recently claimed it had recorded 64 million minutes of paid use in one month.

"There are over 175 million (mobile) subscribers in the United States at over 750 minutes a month. This means over 127 billion minutes of use per month. We are talking about roughly a 2000-1 ratio here," he said. "So the WiMAX guys have a vague vision about metro coverage and in other areas about rural coverage. There are also vague statements on economies of scale and an intellectual property regime that is different from other wireless technologies."

He added; "However, there is a basic problem in that there has not been any examples of data-only systems being economically viable, and no discussion, if the Wi-MAX guys are going to do voice services, how they are going to penetrate a value chain and wireless ecosystem that will be rapidly approaching a billion units a year by the time the WiMAX guys get their act together. Let alone what frequency these alleged systems will operate at. Or how the standardisation issues get solved".

In its most biting passage, Belk's paper also disputes whether laptop manufacturers will happily incorporate WiMAX chips in their products, as is the hope of WiMAX promoter Intel.

"If you are a laptop manufacturer, you want efficient manufacturing and global service strategies," something, Belk adds, is not possible with mobile Wi-MAX over the next few years because it lacks a road-tested standard, has not been properly trialled for interference issues and works across so many frequency bands that it will become overly expensive to cater to them all

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