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Nokia Dismisses WiMAX as a "Wireless Betamax"

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Nokia has dismissed WiMAX as a failed idea and likened it to the Betamax video format which lost the video tape war in the 1980s. Nokia's head of sales and manufacturing, Anssi Vanjoki told the Financial Times that he doesn't "see that WiMax is taking hold anywhere in a big way,"

"I don't think the future is very promising [for WiMax]. This is a classic example of industry standards clashing, and somebody comes out as the winner and somebody has to lose. Betamax was there for a long time, but VHS dominated the market. I see exactly the same thing happening here," Mr Vanjoki added.

Nokia is a long term backer of LTE as an upgrade path to higher speed mobile data services, although it does maintain a position within the WiMAX trade association.

"It's my prediction that by 2015, we will have an LTE network that will cover most of the important places in the world and that will give us the coverage and capacity we need," said Mr Vanjoki.

Vanjoki's view echoes that of IMS Research in a report published last October. According to IMS Research Analyst Bob Perez,"The truth is that WiMAX is a very robust technology that has been quite successful in many parts of the world as a fixed broadband solution and will continue to do so, especially in underserved markets." He continued by saying that, "although mobile WiMAX networks are already going live thanks to Sprint/Clearwire and Korea Telecom the prospect of additional mobile WiMAX networks from Tier 1 operators are looking pretty grim." 

However, Clearwire is bullish about the prospects for WiMAX networks and is predicting that it's early mover advantage compared to LTE networks will push it to over 30 million subscribers by 2017 and annual revenues of over $17.5 billion. The forecasts were outlined by Clearwire CEO, Benjamin Wolf at an investor presentation last June when the firm outlined its merger with Sprint's WiMAX network.

As a final thought, while Betamax failed as a consumer product, its commercial derivative, Betacam eventually dominated as the de facto videotape format for broadcast television services. Maybe Vanjoki's comment will foretell a similar fate for WiMAX as the dominant technology for commercial users and fixed wireless services.

On the web: Financial Times

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