The next year is crucial for WiMax

WiMax, though "promising", will need to prove itself in the market over the next year before reaching commercial success, says IDC.

Driven by the building of WiMax infrastructure, sales of WiMax equipment is expected to ramp "steeply" this year, according to the latest IDC report.

The analyst company predicts worldwide WiMax semiconductor revenue to reach nearly US$480 million this year, growing to US$1.2 billion in 2012.

Contributing factors include over 200 WiMax-supporting infrastructure deployments being built globally and a WiMax-capable mobile PC platform, codenamed "Montevina", expected from Intel in the second quarter of the year, said IDC.

IDC said additionally, manufacturing economies of scale will help WiMax find its way into a wider range of products beyond PCs, including digital cameras and mobile phones.

Flint Pulskamp, program manager, Wireless Semiconductors at IDC, said the next year will be a "critical" deciding period for the technology's future.

"The next year will tell us a great deal about consumers' interest and acceptance of WiMax" amid competition with similar technologies "closing the performance gap", said Pulskamp.

Pulskamp said: "If the early results are promising, then we can expect some significant shifts in the vendor base and supply chain as major chipset vendors move into the market."

IDC notes that for WiMax to succeed, the technology has to overcome several hurdles. These include quality of service and reliability issues, as well as controlling power consumption of the chipset.

"Cost is also a lingering issue, although increased production should help drive down chipset costs," said IDC, adding that the WiMax operators will need to draw out "viable technology upgrade paths" to help justify further infrastructure investments.