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WiMax Waits on Testing

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News Analysis
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The first batch of WiMax equipment testing is now not scheduled to start until October, a move that could push back the availability of official product from late this year into 2006.

Last month the WiMAX Forum opened its test laboratory at Cetecom SA’s facility in Malaga, Spain (see WiMax Lab Opens Its Doors and WiMax Forum Opens Test Lab). The lab aims to test kit based on the fixed-wireless 802.16-2004 specification. Products that pass both conformance and interoperability testing will be tagged “WiMax certified” and ready for commercial availability.

A number of vendors have been eager to tout their early involvement in the lab, but such developments focus on setting up the parameters that will define interoperability for each system profile, rather than any official testing launch. In fact, Unstrung understands that only Airspan Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: AIRN), Aperto Networks, Proxim Corp. (Nasdaq: PROX) and Redline Communications Inc. have so far sent kit to the lab, using silicon from Sequans Communications and Wavesat Wireless Inc. (see Airspan Submits WiMax Kit, Aperto Preps WiMax Certification, Sequans Preps for WiMax Certification, and Wavesat Helps WiMax Test).

“The initial procedure is to validate the test,” says Mo Shakouri, VP of marketing at the WiMax Forum and VP for business development at Alvarion Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR). “There are multiple vendors working on a plugfest to validate the test. They are getting to know one another. It will take around three months to make sure everything is up and running. After that, they will do the formal certification.”

The WiMax Forum is believed to have outlined four "waves" of WiMax testing, the first of which is scheduled to begin in October and will likely focus on testing of time-division duplex (TDD), or unpaired spectrum, kit in the 3.5GHz band. The second wave is expected to include testing of frequency-division duplex (FDD), or paired spectrum, kit in the 3.5GHz band. Equipment for use in the 2.5GHz and 5.8GHz bands will follow at a later date. The final wave of 802.16-2004 testing is scheduled to be complete around May 2006.

The October start date casts a shadow over the possibility of commercial kit availability in 2005, a timeframe previously touted by the industry. Shakouri is confident this remains a realistic goal. “The end of the year has always been the target for the Forum. Not all of the spectrum bands or capability will be supported though... The good thing is that the momentum is there and vendors are getting started. We believe that when the actual certification starts we will get a lot more.”

The wait goes some way to explaining market booster Alvarion’s delay on submitting equipment. Earlier this month Unstrung revealed that the vendor was an absentee from initial arrivals at the lab and that the company is holding out for a few weeks before making a charge (see Alvarion Waits on WiMax Testing).

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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