Ken Wieland, Contributing Editor

August 9, 2007

2 Min Read
Vodafone joins WiMAX Forum

No doubt there were high fives all round at the WiMAX Forum headquarters Thursday morning, as the disruptive technology won the backing of Vodafone.

The industry body, committed to promoting and certifying interoperable WiMAX products, announced that Vodafone has become a principal member of the forum, lending yet more credence to the assertion of the technology as a commercial reality.

US carrier Sprint made a splash when it began rolling out WiMAX last year, but the company also has a cdma2000 1x EV-DO network. Vodafone, as a pureplay GSM operator, will definitely cause a stir with its news.

But the announcement should not come as a great surprise. Vodafone CEO, Arun Sarin, dropped a number of hints at 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona in February, suggesting he was coming round to the idea of WiMAX as part of the operator’s strategy.

At 3GSM, Sarin called on the industry as a whole to work faster on its plans for Long Term Evolution (LTE), the next generation cellular technology, highlighting the faster than anticipated adoption of WiMAX on the world stage.

“The GSMA needs to influence the ecosystem. LTE is still at the standards stage, while WiMAX is a commercial reality,” he said.

Although Sarin acknowledged that LTE offers better backwards compatibility with Vodafone’s existing platform, he added that if LTE development did not start moving along faster, Vodafone would be forced into considering compatibility with the OFDM technology.

“We need to compete with adjacent industries, embrace new communications technologies and create new revenue streams,” he said.

“At Vodafone we have changed our strategy. We’re not just a mobile company any more, we’re a total communications company.”

Further clarifying the issue in a statement, Steve Pusey, global chief technology officer for Vodafone, said: “Our membership of the WiMAX Forum will complement our existing memberships of other key industry bodies such as the GSMA, 3GPP and the Next Generation Mobile Network initiative.

“Vodafone remains technology neutral as far as our future network options are concerned, and joining the WiMAX Forum is a logical step as we seek to evaluate the full capabilities and potential of this technology.”

Ovum analyst John Delaney, said that it seems perfectly natural that a large mobile operator would decide to join the WiMAX Forum. “In Vodafone’s case, the move is especially logical because of its increasing presence in emerging markets. The prospects for WiMAX to play an important role in the future development of mobile are better in those parts of the world where large numbers of people do not yet have access to telecoms or the internet,” he said.

“On the other hand, the telecoms model will predominate for the forseeable future in more mature markets. Vodafone clearly needs to be involved in the development of both types of model, since its business encompasses both types of market,” Delaney said.

About the Author(s)

You May Also Like