Mobile WiMAX Heats Up

The expectations for mobile WiMAX are growing, and so are the investments and trials. Mobile WiMAX chip maker Sequans said it received another round of $24 million led by Kennet Venture Partners, while Intel anounced new details of its mobile WiMAX chip, “Rosedale II,” and Motorola says it is testing a network in Toyko with partner Softbank.

That’s a lot of attention for one day. Intel said Alcatel will test Rosedale II in its mobile WiMAX networks, while 9 other WiMAX companies–including Aperto Networks, Airspan, Alvarion, Proxim Wireless, Navini Networks, among others–will include the chip in network solutions. A Navini spokesperson said the mobile WiMAX products with Rosedale II could offer wireless broadband access while moving at speeds up to 60 miles per hour (which seems to be a growing requirement for network access.)

Motorola’s Tokyo test network will use Motorola’s access points, access network and prototypes of handheld devices. The network could offer Softbank, which owns third-place Japanese operator Vodafone KK, a better way to compete in the tough wireless Japanese market.

Investment in WiMAX, both mobile and fixed, seems to be growing significantly. Sequans roughly tripled its total funding raised. Last month Navini received $17.5 million in part from investor Intel Capital. And Intel and Motorola dropped that huge investment into Clearwire earlier this month.

While mobile WiMAX products won’t likely be on the market until next year at the earliest, companies are looking to certify products as early as the end of this year. Mobile WiMAX, compared to its fixed WiMAX cousin, is being touted as a much bigger market. Hardware for both markets, fixed and mobile, is expected to generate $1.7 billion by 2009, according to Infonetics. Including services, Gartner puts that figure at $2.2 billion by 2008. Instat says in a research report today that the Asia Pacific region will grow from $106.4 million in 2006 to $4.3 billion by 2011.

If WiMAX, both mobile and fixed, doesn’t take off, it could very well end up being the biggest over-hyped wireless technology of recent years. Though, companies like Intel and global investors are spending massive sums to try to make sure that doesn’t happen.