Wireless carrier group warns against WiMAX hype

GSM claims WiMAX technology immature, proffers HSPA as viable alternative

Mobile services group the GSM Association says businesses and investors dazzled by the recent WiMAX World convention shouldn't buy into the hype just yet.

GSM said WiMAX is still in its developmental stages while High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) is delivering high-speed mobile broadband already.

"I think HSPA is one of the few recent technologies to not be overhyped," said David Pringle, the spokesman for the GSMA, a trade association that represents 700 GSM mobile phone operators. "Its effect on performance has been dramatic. It's offering wireless broadband, and it's here today."

HSPA comprises two wireless broadband protocols, High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) and High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HPUSA), that operate on 3G mobile devices. HSPDA, which can download data at 7Mbps, is used in handsets developed by companies such as AT&T, Samsung and Vodafone.

WiMAX received much attention via the recent WiMAX convention in the US, Pringle says that WiMAX's working models still can't outperform HSPA's current technology.

"We're close to developing HSPA networks that will reach speeds of 14Mbps," he said. "You don't see any early WiMAX network performing that fast. A WiMAX provider would have to build a very dense network to outperform HSPA."

Pringle said that he expects HSPA to be the dominant wireless broadband technology for at least five years, after which it might be overtaken by so-called fourth-generation" wireless technology such as Long-Term Evolution (LTE).

A study released this summer by Juniper Research backs up Pringle's point, as it projects that HSPA will "dominate" wireless broadband for the next five years, and will account for roughly 70 per cent of the mobile broadband subscriber base. Similarly, a study by Informa Telecoms and Media projects that HSDPA will account for 65 per cent of 3.5G wireless broadband subscribers worldwide.

ABI Research, meanwhile, found earlier this year that WiMAX services were a while off becoming competitive with 3G services.

"Technologies like WiMAX are still in a phase where people are speculating about what they can do," said Pringle. "Whereas in the case of AT&T, you've reached the point where all of their 3G devices have HSPA, and there are over 100 handsets that use HSPA and are available right now."

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