Tuesday, August 25, 2009


South Korea officials say the country’s mobile WiMax licenses should be revoked and other sanctions imposed because the country is not getting the rollout citizens were promised, Light Reading reports.

In 2005, Korea Telecom, primarily a landline phone/broadband company, along with Hanaro Telecom (now SK Broadband), and SK Telecom (a cellular operator with 50% market share), received licenses for WiBro, although Hanaro returned its license in the same year.

The companies agreed to invest $1 billion on infrastructure, and the government set a target of 1.4 million subscribers by 2009. South Korea launched Mobile WiMAX in 2006, but the rollout has been slow — especially with SK Telecom, which probably prefers a cellular-centric, HSPA solution.

To date, KT and SKT still have $200 million to $300 million in capex left to invest, says Tae-Hyung Kim, Asia/Pacific analyst at Pyramid Research.

As of the end of June, KT had 218,454 WiBro subscribers, according to the company’s figures. SKT does not publish its WiBro subscriber numbers separately, but Kim believes the number stood at just 20,000 in April this year, although the company has a target of 100,000 by the end of the year.

KT has improved takeup recently with a 29 percent rise in revenues quarter-on-quarter. The company’s CFO, Yeon-Hak Kim, KT expects the growth trend to continue in the second half of the year, when notebooks embedded with both WiBro and WiFi technology are introduced.

Despite such improvements, WiBro is very much the bridesmaid to HSPA’s bride, says Unstrung. As of the end of June, Korea had just shy of 22 million HSPA subscribers, according to Wireless Intelligence, some 47 percent of the total mobile subscriber base.

WiBro coverage is limited to Seoul and its surrounding areas, whereas HSPA is nationwide. But, according to Unstrung, Pyramid’s Kim says even if the operators completed their promised investments, nationwide coverage is out of the question. “Depending on the amount of the fine, I personally think operators would prefer to have WiBro licenses revoked just to get done with the issue, he suggests.”

He also believes the government will not follow through on its threat to rescind the licenses: “After spending a huge sum in paying royalties to Qualcomm for [CDMA] 2G networks, the government tried to develop a home-grown technology — WiBro — that vendors could export, rather than import. The government created a WiBro hype that pushed a lot of local SMEs into investing in it, so it can’t back off WiBro now, even if it knows that WiBro doesn’t make much business sense at this point.”

The decision on government action will rest with the Korea Communications Committee, and it’s not clear when it will make a ruling on the issue.


Alvarion announced today that it has agreed to expand their OEM agreement with Nokia Siemens Networks. Nokia Siemens Networks will resell Alvarion’s latest Mobile WiMAX solutions to Nokia Siemens Networks’ current and prospective WiMAX customers. Nokia currently has WiMAX in 14 countries.

Nokia Siemens Networks will resell the Alvarion 4Motion® Mobile WiMAX Solution, including the BreezeMAX base stations, ASN Gateways and 4Motion Element Management System. Nokia’s WiMAX architecture (pdf) supports “open” R6 architecture between ASN Gateways and basestations, as does Alvarion.

Alvarion’s Star Management Suite is designed to manage complete WiMAX network infrastructure, enabling operators to simplify management of IP services such as VoIP and IPTV while enhancing quality of service in a centralized, integrated manner.

The company will also provide deployment, management and maintenance services for the products and leverage its multi-vendor capabilities. Alvarion and Nokia Siemens Networks are already cooperating on WiMAX projects under this expanded agreement. Nokia’s OEM agreement with Alvarion will keep NSN in the WiMAX ball game. And the mobile WiMAX market is likely to be significant, even if LTE eventually dominates broadband wireless, as Nokia believes.

Nokia Siemens Networks originally said they would be a major player in WiMAX, and was one of Clear’s three major suppliers, but has recently largely abandoned their own WiMAX development in favor of LTE. There is clear difference between the WiMAX and LTE in terms business focus. WiMAX is focused on internet access and LTE is focused on voice.

Alvarion’s similar OEM agreement with Nortel Networks ended with Alvarion getting stung on payment, after shipping a ton of equipment to Nortel.

On January 14, 2009, Nortel filed for protection from creditors in order to restructure its debt and financial obligations. At its height, Nortel accounted for more than a third of the total valuation of all the companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Nortel’s market capitalization fell from C$398 billion in September 2000 to less than $5 billion in August 2002, and their stock price plunged from C$124 to $0.47.

This week, Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson said it is in the bidding for Nortel’s mobile network unit. Ericsson reportedly submitted a bid worth $730 million, competing with a $650 million bid from Nokia Siemens Networks for Nortel’s CDMA and LTE wireless technology businesses. RIM had said it was prepared to pay up to $1.1 billion for Nortel’s wireless business and other undisclosed assets, but had been prevented from participating in the auction unless it agreed to refrain from bidding on other Nortel assets. On July 28, a judge at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware will decide on which bidder should get the assets. A similar hearing in Canada is scheduled for July 30.


Sprint Nextel announced Wednesday that it will start selling dual-mode 3G/4G wireless broadband modems for laptops starting Sunday.

Sprint 3G/4G USB Modem U300

(Credit: Sprint Nextel)

The new device allows users to access both Sprint's 3G cellular data network and the new 4G WiMax wireless network the company is building as part of the new Clearwire venture.

The modem known as the Sprint 3G/4G USB Modem U300 will use the new 4G Clearwire network with download speeds between 2 Mbps and 4Mbps where that network is available. And when users are out of range of the 4G wireless network, they will automatically be able to access Sprint's 3G network, which offers average downloads of between 600 Kbps and 1.4 Mbps, according to Sprint.

Sprint launched the 4G WiMax network called Xohm in Baltimore in October, just months before it officially merged its WiMax network with Clearwire's network. The service will be launched in other markets across the country throughout 2009.

At the Baltimore launch, Sprint's CEO Dan Hesse promised a wireless data device that would allow users to access both networks for better coverage.

"It will take a while for the new (4G) network to be built ubiquitously," Hesse said during the Baltimore press event. "And we will have new multimode devices that will use 4G where it's available, and when it's not, it will downshift to 3G to provide that ubiquitous data coverage."

The new wireless modem connects via a standard USB port and costs $149.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate and with a two-year subscription to the wireless data service. The wireless modem will be available through Sprint's direct business sales force and at most Baltimore-area Sprint stores and select Baltimore-area retailers, the company said. Starting in January, the device will also be available in Baltimore-area Best Buy stores.

The new wireless modem from Sprint will likely be a better deal for most consumers because the service, which costs $79.99 per month, offers the best coverage at the best price.

Several notebook manufacturers, including Acer, Asus, Lenovo, and Toshiba, are including Intel's WiMax/Wi-Fi module in new laptops, so that users can access the 4G WiMax network. But these devices do not have Sprint's 3G wireless technology integrated into them. This means that users would have to subscribe to both a 4G WiMax service from Clearwire, which regularly costs $45 per month (a $15 discount is available for the first six months), and Sprint's 3G wireless service, which costs $59.99 per month, if they wanted wireless broadband service nationwide. And because the 3G and 4G radio frequency technologies aren't integrated in these laptops, the devices would not seamlessly switch between the 3G and 4G networks.

A Sprint spokesman said the company and its partners will eventually offer embedded dual-mode 3G/4G technology in other devices. But he also pointed out that the laptops that use Intel's embedded WiMax technology and the dual mode 3G/4G modem are really aimed at different sets of customers.

The embedded laptops are for users who only need high speed wireless access close to home, while the 3G/4G modem is for road warriors who may find themselves far from Baltimore or any of the other WiMax enabled cities.


Huawei has made the cut as a supplier to Clearwire WiMAX network, reports the WSJ.

Under the three-year deal, Huawei will supply WiMax gear to Clearwire. Clearwire currently uses Motorola and Samsung gear and planned to use infrastructure from Nokia Networks, until they dropped their WiMAX development. Cisco’s WiMAX unit, which bought beamforming innovator Navini Networks, will also provide equipment to Clearwire.

Baltimore’s Xohm service uses ZyXEL 206M2 residential clients and Samsung’s SWC-E100 express card. Clear uses clients by Motorola as well as infrastructure.

Clear plans to expand to 80 markets by the end of 2010, deploying roughly 20,000 base stations at a cost of $150,000 each. Huawei has sold gear to 45 WiMax networks around the world. Clearwire’s CTO John Saw said that Huawei was chosen because of its ability to support a wide-reaching deployment at a low cost.

The giant Chinese telecom vendor, will gain a major foothold in the United States and may help it’s LTE thrust for cellular operators. Huawei faces little competition in the market for LTE gear, opines Om Malik, with Nortel and Alcatel-Lucent in financial difficulty. Vodafone will use Huwaei gear in its LTE trials. Vodafone Germany and Huawei will test the performance of LTE in the 790-862MHz band using Huawei’ s end-to-end LTE solution and opened their Long Term Evolution laboratory in Richardson, Texas. Huawei is a 100% employee-owned company with no Chinese government ownership. Ericsson is currently the largest LTE proponent.

Clearwire has spectrum — some 120 MHz of greenfield spectrum in major cities. If Clear could re-sell some of that asset to LTE-based cellular carriers, they would be sitting pretty. Carriers don’t want to become a “dumb” pipe — not even Clear.

Clear could fight cellular Goliaths — or make money on them.

In June, Huawei launched what it proclaimed the world’s first commercial WiMax distributed base station (DBS) with four transmitters and four receivers (4T4Rs). With better coverage, operators may reduce the number of base stations and lower their total cost of ownership.

Huawei’s equipment is compatible with multiple kinds of wireless technology. That includes what the other carriers are deploying, said Charlie Chen, a marketing and product management executive for Huawei. Huawei’s WASN9770 can provide end-to-end funtionality and supports profile C from the WiMAX Forum. Clearwire could conceivably change technologies down the line if it needed to.

Profile C, as defined by the Wimax forum Network Working Group (archive), stipulates an open and non-proprietary interface standard between basestations (BTS) and the internet gateway (ASN Gateway). Profile C operators are not tied into one vendor for BTS and ASN Gateway equipment.

The WiMAX Forum hopes to break the classic 2G/3G closed architecture model and standardize on Profile C. That enables operators to deploy radio and network equipment from different vendors based on a single “R6″ interface. The “open” approach allows easier handoff between different service providers who can use gear from different vendors.

Despite the apparent advantages of Profile C, some ‘turnkey’ vendors are still successfully tempting operators with two non-open approaches between the BTS and ASN Gateway: Profile A and Profile B. Both Profiles can create vendor lock-ins.

  • Profile A: WiMAX-defined standard interface between ASN gateway and base station, with more radio resource control functions in the ASN gateway. Alcatel-Lucent is an advocate of Profile A, which must have the same supplier for both the BTS and the ASN Gateway.
  • Profile B: No defined interface between ASN gateway and base station. WiMAX suppliers like Cisco started out with profile B (through its acquisition of Navini Networks), but is now shifting to Profile C.
  • Profile C: WiMAX-defined standard interface between ASN gateway and base station. It has more radio resource functions in the base station and a focus on the air interface. Alvarion supports Profile C and continues to promote OPEN WiMAX approach (pdf) in their open WiMAX architecture.

Some companies (like Motorola), are said to have hardware pieces that are difficult to change to an “open”, Profile C. For some operators, if the price and performance is right, Profile A or B can be a reasonable (if not ideal) solution, despite the vendor lockdown.

Ericsson expects 80% of mobile broadband services will be enabled by cellular by 2012, using HSPA and LTE technologies. Ericsson CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg said the bulk of mobile broadband deployments in the coming five years will be based on HSPA. According to Unstrung, Svanberg forecast 3.5 billion high-speed access lines globally, about 80 percent of which would be via wireless, rather than fixed. Of the 3 billion mobile broadband lines, about 70 percent will be HSPA, predicts Ericsson.