WiMax has effectively been folded into 3G's future development, after the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) decision to include it in the IMT-2000 set of standards.
Although WiMax and 3G have been battling it out as rival wireless broadband technologies, the ITU's move paves the way for both to be integrated into future standards.
The WiMax Forum said in a statement: "This decision is of global importance to operators, who look to ITU to endorse technologies before they invest in new infrastructure.
"The decision to approve the WiMax Forum's version of IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] Standard 802.16 as an IMT-2000 technology significantly escalates opportunities for global deployment, especially within the 2.5GHz to 2.69GHz band, to deliver mobile internet to satisfy both rural and urban market demand."
According to Ron Resnick, the WiMax Forum's president, this is the first time a new air interface has been added to the IMT-2000 set of standards since the original technologies were selected nearly a decade ago.
"3G solutions based upon technologies such as W-CDMA, CDMA-2000 and TD-SCDMA were already included in the IMT-2000 set of standards," said Resnick.
He added: "With WiMax technology now included, it places us on equal footing with the legacy-based technologies ITU-R [ITU Radiocommunication Sector, the spectrum management sector of the ITU] already endorses. The bottom line is that operators across the globe now have the freedom to select the right technology to best meet their business and regional needs."
A spokesman for the GSM Association (GSMA), an organisation which represents mobile operators, said the GSMA is "relaxed" about the development.
"We think it is good that operators will have the flexibility to use WiMax in IMT-2000 spectrum if they wish," he said.
"We do see WiMax as a complimentary or niche technology alongside the main GSM evolution path, which essentially today is HSPA [high speed 3G], so we expect the majority of operators to focus their energy and resources on that path. But WiMax has a role to play."
He said operators would want future wireless technology to be compatible and would therefore want to reuse their existing investment in infrastructure and radio spectrum. He also noted that long-term evolution (LTE) 3G should also use "the very latest radio access technologies and techniques for utilising spectrum". He added: "We are confident that HSPA has a very long evolution path."