WiMax Forum forecasts 100 launches this year

WiMax talk is turning to action.

It may not have made a huge splash in the United States, but WiMax coverage continues to grow in many international markets. According to the WiMax Forum, about 100 carriers worldwide will offer the 4G wireless technology for the first time this year.

That number was first quoted in an InformationWeek article last Wednesday. Although the Forum has not published a report with that estimate, the forum's marketing director Scenna Tabesh confirmed it in a phone call with the Industry Standard. "It's an estimate we firmly stand behind," she said.

In addition, in 2008 about twice as many new WiMax services were launched by carriers. This year, the poor economy is limiting the number of new WiMax rollouts. Tabesh described the Forum's view as "cautiously optimistic in light of the global financial crisis."

The Forum estimates that about 430 million people live in areas with WiMax coverage, and that that number will climb to 800 million by the end of 2010.

Tabesh wouldn't say how many of those 100 new carriers will be in the United States, but if current trends continue, it won't be many. While the Forum currently lists 63 U.S. carriers, only two major cities, Baltimore and Portland, Oregon, have significant WiMax coverage. "In the U.S.," Tabesh explains, "there are fewer entities that own the majority of the most suitable spectrum," making it a technical and business challenge. But she points out that when you compare the speed of the U.S. rollout with that of earlier wireless technologies such as 3G and cellular, "we're actually doing okay."

Tabesh also expressed hope that the federal stimulus package would help boost the industry. The recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allots US$7.2 billion for broadband deployment for the US.