Nokia says WiMAX is a niche play

Competition in the technology industry is fierce and often the winner gets to set the de facto standard that ultimately kills the rival. This is what happened in the Betamax vs. VHS war, then in the Blu-ray vs. HD DVD fight, and now the same thing is set to happen in the WiMAX vs. LTE battle.

The sole major mobile service provider betting big on WiMAX in the U.S. is Sprint. The poor performance of Sprint as a whole has threatened to kill off its WiMAX offering on more than one occasion and ultimately Sprint gave its WiMAX IP and hopes to a new company called Clearwire. Sprint previously predicted that its WiMAX services would be used by 100 million customers by 2008.

So far, Sprint hasn’t even come close to that number with only two functional networks in the entire country up and running at this time in Portland and Baltimore. Other mobile service providers including AT&T and Verizon are betting big on LTE as the network standard for 4G and more and more handset makers and infrastructure companies are starting to back LTE to the detriment of WiMAX.

Nokia announced that it will be supporting LTE alone in its 4G technology roadmaps. This comes as no real surprise after Nokia cancelled its WiMAX N810 Internet Tablet. Nokia says that it plans to begin offering LTE 4G devices, most likely by 2010. One of the LTE devices could be a netbook with integrated 4G connectivity; Nokia's CEO said in February that the company was considering entry into the netbook market.

Verizon Wireless says that it has been field testing LTE 4G networks in northern New Jersey and Columbus, Ohio and that in testing downloads have hit peak speeds of 50Mbps to 60Mbps. However, Verizon stresses that the official speeds for the network won’t be announced until closer to the launch of the service.

Sprint and Clearwire still maintain that the first to market advantage of WiMAX gives them an edge, but it is hard to see any edge when there are only two networks operating and handset makers are pledging support to rival technology.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch

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