Nokia has dismissed the prospects of the WiMax wireless mobile standard, claiming it is doomed to meet the same fate as Betamax, the video format that lost out to VHS in a war over technology standards in the 1970s and 1980s.
The world’s biggest maker of mobile phones is one of the founding members of the WiMax Forum, the industry body set up to promote the standard. The Finnish company is betting the 4G wireless standard LTE – Long Term Evolution – will dominate the mobile world by 2015 and WiMax will be the big loser.
WiMax has suffered a delayed roll-out in the US, but its main backer, the chipmaker Intel, has claimed the technology is taking hold in other parts of the world. “I don’t see that WiMax is taking hold anywhere in a big way,” said Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia‘s head of sales and manufacturing, at a Nokia launch event in San Francisco yesterday.
“I don’t think the future is very promising [for WiMax]. This is a classic example of industry standards clashing, and somebody comes out as the winner and somebody has to lose. Betamax was there for a long time, but VHS dominated the market. I see exactly the same thing happening here,” Mr Vanjoki added.
His remarks were the most dismissive by Nokia of WiMax to date. Nokia has previously been perceived as taking care not to be too critical of WiMax. And Nokia still has a seat on the board of the WiMax Forum.
Nokia has vacillated in its support of the technology in the past. It left the WiMax Forum industry body in 2004, only to rejoin it a short while afterwards. It launched a WiMax device – the N810 – a year ago but then discontinued it in January.
Other players in the industry have seen WiMax as able to co-exist with 3G and alongside LTE, which has been adopted by some of the world’s largest mobile operators. Nokia, however, now appears to be firmly in the LTE camp.
“It’s my prediction that by 2015, we will have an LTE network that will cover most of the important places in the world and that will give us the coverage and capacity we need,” said Mr Vanjoki.
Both LTE and WiMax promise data speeds in excess of 100 megabits per second. “We think WiMax is here to stay,” said Julie Coppernoll, Intel‘s WiMax marketing director. WiMax networks have a coverage area of 400m people and are projected to reach double that by next year, she added.
By Chris Nuttall in San Francisco