Does Clearwire's agreement with Ericsson spell the end of its WiMAX offering?

US WiMAX player Clearwire has announced a managed services deal with Ericsson, lending further weight to the expectation that the carrier will soon abandon WiMAX technology in favour of LTE, now established as a global standard. Ericsson also has a managed services deal with Clearwire parent Sprint, another carrier widely believed to be about to switch technological horses to LTE.

The two carriers’ technology shift is all but an open secret in the industry, with only the timing up for debate.

Ericsson’s pedigree in managed services is well documented, but it has little experience of, or interest in WiMAX, having long since dismissed the technology as a viable contender in the evolution of the wireless industry. The deal will see Ericsson absorb some 700 Clearwire employees and assume responsibility for network engineering, and operations and maintenance for Clearwire’s core, transmission and access networks.

The deal will provide a welcome respite from some of Clearwire’s financial pressures, not least in terms of human resources. “We greatly appreciate the tireless contributions the talented people on our network services team have made in building Clearwire’s 4G network and laying the foundation for our success,” Clearwire COO Erik Prusch said in a statement, adding:  “We are pleased they will have new opportunities within Ericsson to support our customers, and further position Clearwire as the leader in mobile broadband.”

As well as bolstering Ericsson’s already sizeable managed services customer base, the deal further entrenches the Swedish vendor in a market where, just five years ago, it was a bit player. “There has been a fundamental shift in the US market for Ericsson that proves our commitment to North America has actually paid off for the whole business,” Arun Bhikshesvaran, Ericsson’s VP for strategy and market development, North America, told Telecoms.com in a recent interview.

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