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3GSM Qualcomm rarely needs an invitation to comment on the WiMax bandwagon, and when we met Senior VP Jeff Belk Wednesday, it so happened he had a presentation ready.

His timeline slide compares the maturity of UMTS and CDMA EV-DO to 802.11, .16 and .20, and what do you know? UMTS and EV-DO are here and work, and WiMax is somewhere in the smoke and mirrors phase. Belk joked that he used to use a similar slide for comparing GSM and CDMA, only that used to have "issue press release" as the first entry.

"WiMax is being presented as a Magic Wand solution," he said, "but it isn't". While the technology holds great promise for reducing backhaul costs, he said, as a voice/data replacement carriers aren't convinced.

"WiFi and WiMax will be complementary," he said, warning carriers not to be caught in the middle.

"You can never discount Intel," he said, noting that the Santa Clara giant has struggled to gain much traction with its own 3G offerings.

With 3G speeds ratcheting ever higher, thanks to upgrades like HSDPA, 3G offers better capabilities, said Belk.

WiMax is far from smoke and mirrors, however. British chip company PicoChip which produces powerful, programmable microprocessors for base stations allowing them to be upgraded to run different air interface protocols, has notched up its tenth win for WiMax.

"WiMax is real," VP of marketing Rupert Baines says "In large parts of the world where there's no copper, it's very attractive. That's a market of 1.7 billion people." ®

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