Yota Dumps WiMAX

In a major blow to WiMax proponents, Yota, one of the world’s top WiMAX operators serving five Russian cities, said Friday that it decided to develop LTE, not WiMAX, reports the Moscow Times.

Yota is one the largest WiMAX network in the world, says Wikipedia. As of 2010, Yota had 350,000 subscribers, increasing by 3,000 customers per day.

Yota now plans to spend $100 million on an LTE rollout in five Russian cities this year. Their total investments is estimated at up to $2 billion.

The first city to get LTE will be Kazan, followed by Novosibirsk and Samara. Yota plans to launch LTE in Moscow and St. Petersburg at the end of 2011.

The company, founded in 2007, currently operates in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ufa, Sochi and Krasnodar. It is also active in Belarus, Peru and Nicaragua.

Yota had planned to launch WiMax in 15 more Russian cities, which will instead receive LTE service. The company will use the same 2.5-2.7 GHz frequency band in which its WiMax networks currently operate.

“Yota is a services company; for us technology is an instrument. It’s clear that the LTE standard is becoming the main trend in wireless communications,” chief executive Denis Sverdlov said a statement on the company’s web site.

According to Robert Syputa, senior strategic analyst with Maravedis, “It remains to be seen if WiMAX momentum will continue in India and North America. We now forecast that Clearwire will shift at least part of their deployments to LTE by the end of 2011.”

Why the push for TD-LTE? TD-LTE and FDD-LTE are interoperable. You can roam across them. WiMAX, on the other hand, is potentially cheaper, can use unlicensed bands, works for backhaul and is upwardly compatible with 100 Mbps 802.16m.

Samsung provides WiMAX base stations to Yota in Nicaragua and Belarus. Yota also has strategic partnerships with Intel, HTC, Cisco, Sequans and ASUS. Samsung’s U-RAS Flexible base stations can be used as a common platform for Mobile WiMAX (802.16e), Mobile WiMAX 2 (802.16m), as well as both FDD-LTE and TD-LTE deployments.

The Yota LTE plan will likely throw a monkey wrench into Clear’s roaming agreement with the big three WiMAX operators, Yota (in Russia), UQ (in Japan) and Clear (in the United States).

Deployed WiMAX networks include:.

4GCounts reported 4.73 million BWA/WiMAX subscribers being served by over 200 operators worldwide at the end of Q3 2009.

The WiMAX Forum says that emerging markets such as India and China are its best bet. But India’s Broadband Auction has just begun (after finishing the 3G auction), and bids on the two, 20 MHz slots available in the country are now facing competition from TD-LTE backer Qualcomm.

Germany’s spectrum auction in the 2.6 GHz band will open up some 190 MHz for “4G” broadband wireless. Germany’s auction included two 20 MHz slots totaling some 40 GHz, and some 140 GHz devoted to paired LTE for cellular carriers.

This 2.6 GHz spectrum road map is now expected to be followed by most of the countries of the world for their “4G” auctions.

But if the 50 MHz chunk of unpaired (TDD) 2.6 GHz spectrum goes to TD-LTE, then it could be curtains for WiMAX technology as a major global force.

China Mobile – the world’s largest mobile carrier with over 508 million customers and China Telecom, the country’s third-placed operator are both interested in carrying Apple’s iPad. China Unicom, the 2nd largest mobile carrier, is currently the exclusive iPad carrier. China developed TD-SCDMA and is expected to favor TD-LTE as a “4G” technology.

Global WiMAX subscriptions are expected to grow from nearly 5 million today to 92.3 million in 2015, according to 4G Trends. LTE subscribers are expected to hit 200 million by 2015, according to Maravedis.

Today there are 5 billion mobile subscribers across the globe. The top 25 mobile operators accounted for almost 22 percent of those subscribers, or 1 billion people. Cellular operators are overwhelmingly committed to LTE.

UPDATE: Monica Paolini says Yota will be using the FDD version of LTE, not TD-LTE. Here’s her detailed white paper on Yota (pdf)

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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