With increasing user demand for mobile broadband bandwidth, governments should start reallocating spectrum from WiMax toward rival technology, 3G cellular broadband, said a Qualcomm executive.
John Stefanac, the company's Asia-Pacific president, said in a phone interview Tuesday that the growth of 3G will take the current base of 950 million subscribers globally to 2.7 billion by end-2014.
In contrast, WiMax has 4 million subscribers, making it still a niche technology and difficult to justify spectrum for it. Governments should instead focus on boosting 3G bandwidth through reallocation, Stefanac told ZDNet Asia.
Being a finite source, Spectrum should be used efficiently and be freed up to answer increasing user demand, he said.
The Singapore government earlier this month said in a consultation paper it is considering auctioning off additional 3G spectrum to boost cellular bandwidth. 3G subscribers account for close to half of the country's 6.9 million mobile users, it said.
Singapore is looking to auction unused spectrum within the 1.9 to 2.1Ghz range that is not being deployed by any other transmission technology.
In India, the 2.3Ghz spectrum currently used for WiMax is being contested by TD-LTE (Time-Division Long Term Evolution) backers, which include Qualcomm.
Stefanac cited other industry players, such as Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks, which have since withdrawn from the WiMax space and are now throwing their weight behind 3G.
Ericsson pulled the plug on its WiMax development in 2007, while Nokia Siemens Networks announced it would move a portion of its WiMax research and development resources to LTE, though the company noted it was not calling it quits with WiMax yet.
WiMax had the first-mover advantage over LTE as it was available early to operators looking to deploy 4G networks.
But WiMax holds little draw for existing telcos that are already invested in cellular broadband, Stefanac said.
He added that the operating cost of a WiMax network is 30 percent higher compared to a 3G infrastructure because it requires more sites.
WiMax operates at a higher frequency band that relies on more base stations to boost the signal, which stretches a shorter distance as the frequency goes higher.