The market for broadband wireless service will be worth $3.7 billion by 2009, and industry support for WiMax indicates that it will be the leading technology.
Two telecommunications consulting firms, BWCS and Senza Fili Consulting, said Wednesday in a study that while fixed wireless services will only make up 3.6 percent of the overall broadband market in the United States by 2009, broadband wireless services will bring in revenue of $3.7 billion. WiMax looks to be the wireless broadband technology that will be most widely used, as major companies and industry groups line up behind it. Intel has been especially aggressive in backing WiMax. Many observers recall that the chipmaker's support for Wi-Fi propelled growth of that technology and expect similar results with WiMax.
WiMax, which carriers will use to wirelessly deliver broadband to their customers, will include the 802.16 standard, plus revisions and additions to that standard, such as 802.16d and 802.16e. This is seen as a significant sign that it can grow where other technologies failed. WiMax is not initially expected to replace Wi-Fi, because consumers can still use Wi-Fi gear to wirelessly distribute their broadband service throughout their homes. Networks set up with gear based on WiMax standards will have a range of up to about 30 miles with data transfer speeds of up to 70 megabits per second.
"Until now, (broadband wireless access) has failed to achieve widespread adoption due to a lack of convergence of vendors toward a single standard," Senza Fili analyst Monica Paolini wrote in a release. "As we have seen with Wi-Fi, standards help to drive down hardware costs and promote interoperability among manufacturers."
Still, the concern is that in establishing standards, companies have to reach agreement on the many aspects of them, which can be a long process.
Another wireless specification that could challenge WiMax is . Initial support for that more readily mobile standard waned with the emergence of WiMax. Lately, support has rallied for 802.20, which essentially lets consumers take their broadband access with them wherever they go. WiMax will initially be a fixed broadband wireless standard, but 802.16e is meant to improve its mobility.
Gear based on chips that use WiMax standards is expected by early next year, and 802.20 products are expected by 2006.
Broadband wireless services aren't likely to gain mainstream use until 2007, according to the report, and in the meantime, trials of new technologies will take place.