These findings and others were revealed during a webinar this week summarizing the results of the first 4Ggear™ Quarterly Report from Maravedis Research.
Maravedis Research Director Adlane Fellah began the discussion with an overview of the WiMAX market landscape. Fellah noted that mobile WiMAX chipsets surged 332% to 5.2 million units in 2009, up from just 1.3 million in 2008. While base station shipments were down due the economy, mobile WiMAX devices grew 147% to 3.8 million units in 2009 from 1.5 million units in 2008.
Fellah described the WiMAX chip market as highly concentrated with the top 3 vendors - Beceem, Sequans and GCT, controlling 90% of the market. Fellah also noted that while WiMAX had established a "beachhead," LTE was gaining momentum and was benefiting form much of the work already done on WiMAX.
Also participating on the webinar was WiMAX chipset vendor Sequans Communications. Sequan's VP of marketing Craig Miller characterized WiMAX devices as "mass market" and said that WiMAX volumes were starting to ramp this year due to more compelling devices, significantly falling costs and a maturing chip ecosystem.
WiMAX device growth
"The device mix is shifting away from desktop CPEs towards more mobile broadband devices, netbooks and mass-market multi-mode handsets," said Miller. "In the future, we expect to see more mass-market handsets, MIDS and other CE devices, as well as the emergence of M2M applications."
The cost advantages of WiMAX were also emphasized during the presentation, which have experienced consistent 20% year-over-year cost declines for the past few years. Interestingly, despite smaller volumes, WiMAX chips are still less expensive than 3G chips due to higher intellectual property royalties paid to 3G vendors such as Qualcomm.
"WiMAX dongles are now down to less than $30 USD, compared to $70-$80 just a few years ago," says Miller. "Continued cost declines are the enabler for mass-market WiMAX adoption."
WiMAX device cost declines
Sequans is also providing LTE chips to China Mobile for their TD-LTE activities, as well as other LTE operators in India, Japan, US & Europe.
"While progress is being made, there is still much work left to be done," says Miller. "While chipsets are numerous, they are not yet optimized and IOT (inter-operability testing) is complex and incomplete. Frequency plans are also extremely complex for LTE with more work needed."
Miller went on to say that while WiMAX has a sizeable head-start, LTE will eventually experience larger volumes and expects crossover with WiMAX volumes sometime in 2012 or 2013.
4Ggear™ is an ongoing research and analysis service focusing on technology and business trends among the leading equipment vendors for LTE, WiMAX, and selected proprietary systems. More information on the 4Ggear service can be found here.