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Comms chips

Airspan Blows Its Pipe

Broadband wireless vendor Airspan Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: AIRN) has upped the stakes in the WiMax publicity fight, claiming its deal with Pipex Communications plc is the first U.K. trial of “802.16-2004 compliant” kit.

O-kaaaay. So here’s the specifics.

The equipment supplier last week commenced a six-month technical trial with U.K. ISP Pipex, due for completion in February 2006 (see Airspan Maxes with Pipex). A single base station will be sited at Airspan’s testing facility in Bordon Hill, Stratford-on-Avon, and a demonstration house approximately 1.2 km from the site will be fitted with Airspan’s EasyST indoor WiMax modem.

The non-line-of-sight trial will be deployed in the 3.6-3.7GHz spectrum band.

“This is a technical trial, not a marketing trial,” says Paul Senior, VP of marketing [ed. note: Senior VP?] at Airspan. “We are looking to see if we can get the same user experience that Pipex gets with DSL, but with WiMax technology. If the user experience is the same then we will roll in more kinds of commercial elements.”

So what makes this small project worthy of attention?

Senior claims that this trial is a step up from previous vendor efforts.

In light of the fact that official kit based on the fixed-wireless 802.16-2004 specification is unlikely to be available until early next year, a bevy of suppliers have been eager to tout their "pre-WiMax" market offerings. Such equipment -- like future official WiMax products -- utilizes Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) modulation, which is what makes the technology suitable for pre-WiMax applications (see Intel's WiMax AntiClimax).

Airspan’s Senior argues that his company is the first to have its 802.16-2004 kit prepped for certification in Cetecom SA’s laboratories and deployed in a U.K. trial (see WiMax Waits on Testing). “The Pipex trial is the same stuff we have in the labs right now.”

Senior is also quick to put an elbow into past vendor trials that used 5GHz 802.11 radio chips. “To describe that as WiMax seems a little ludicrous.”

Roll on, oh marketing bandwagon.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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