Wimax has lost the race against LTE, but it’s still part of the 4G wars.
Global TD-LTE Initiative (GTI), the TD-LTE advocacy group, has reportedly made the mass conversion of WiMAX operators one of its top priorities for the year.
The group, whose members include Softbank, China Mobile and Sprint, sees the several hundred WiMAX operators and their spectrum as potentially valuable assets in their emerging competition with the dominant FDD standard.
According to China’s Sina Tech news, a GTI pre-Mobile World Congress meeting in Barcelona last Friday specified the need to win over Wimax operators to help build scale for the standard. They also agreed to target large FDD-LTE operators and emerging market carriers.
Of the more than 250 commercial LTE networks in operation, only 28 are using TD-LTE. Another 40 networks are under construction.
More than 450 Wimax networks are in operation, according to the WiMAX Forum, but the technology, which was the earliest 4G standard, suffers from a continual stream of defections. The forum agreed in November on a technology path that would allow WiMAX operators to harmonize their networks with TD-LTE in the 2.3GHz, 2.5GHz and 3.5GHz bands.
According to Sina, the WiMAX operators are seeking to evolve to TDD via WiMAX 2.1 rather than junking their existing deployments. It adds:
WiMAX and TDD are close in technology terms, and moreover TD-LTE is rich in spectrum resources.
It also points out that while TD-LTE is the “the only exit for WiMAX operators,” the massive amount of available TD frequencies are attractive to FDD operators, who have limited spectrum left.
The Japanese government announced last month that it planned to allocate 3.5GHz spectrum for TDD to the country’s three 4G operators by year-end.
The GTI meeting agreed a 2014 development plan, committing the group to “fully guid[ing] WiMAX operators to TD-LTE” and to “induce major FDD” and emerging market operators to adopt the standard.