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Delegates disagree on impact of WiMAX

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There was dissension in the ranks over the forthcoming mobile variant of the WiMAX 802.16e wireless access standard at this year’s 3GSM World Congress.

“The mass market is for ‘e’ and it is coming next year,” says Marc Rouane, COO of the mobile communications group at Alcatel. “It is positioned to cost between DSL and UMTS/HSDPA and it’s not intended to compete head to head.”

Alcatel, which already has an agreement with Alvarion for fixed WiMAX, announced it had entered into a joint development agreement with Intel for the mobile variant. The companies expect to begin commercially deploying the technology in mid-2006.

“With Intel, we are moving forward and will launch services in the middle of next year,” says Rouane. “We’re getting a lot of good feedback - the market is eager for WiMAX.”

However, although a member of the WiMAX Forum, Nortel Networks is not convinced about the mobile version.

“There is nothing WiMAX is doing that couldn’t be done with HSDPA,” says Pascal Debon, president of carrier and network operations at Nortel.

Siemens, which announced SkyMAX as its first WiMAX product at 3GSM, believes WiMAX and HSDPA complement each other. “The major difference between HSDPA and WiMAX is HSDPA is a full mobility solution,” says Lothar Pauly, CEO of Siemens Communications. “And HSDPA is available today - WiMAX is for tomorrow.”

Scott Wickware, VP GSM/UMTS solutions at Nortel, does not believe it poses a threat to 3G. “A lot of people call WiMAX ‘Wi-Fi on steroids’ but Wi-Fi has a life and WiMAX can as well, but I don’t believe it will be a cannibaliser.”

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