Clearwire Not Rushing to Test 'WiMax 2'

Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) isn't rushing into faster WiMax 2 technology but could test equipment using the 802.16m specification next year, the carrier's CTO says.

802.16m, aka "WiMax 2," is expected to be approved by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) sometime this summer. The specification is said to enable 120Mbit/s downlink and 60Mbit/s uplink in an urban scenario using 4x2 MIMO (Multiple-Input/Multiple-Output) antennas on a 20MHz-wide channel. This is roughly double what current WiMax technology can achieve in lab conditions, of course -- actual data-rates to the device tend to be cut when used in real world circumstances. (See Predictions & Probabilities for 2010.)

Clearwire's CTO, John Saw, told Unstrung last week that the Kirkland, Wash.-based operator is watching the specification and won't be rushing to test the technology. "I don't think it's going to be this year. I think it's going to be much more likely 2011," says Saw of any trial timeline.

Saw thinks that 2012 is "possible" for commercial deployment of 802.16m. One of the chief benefits of the new specifications would be more "spectrally efficient" 20MHz channels -- as opposed to current 10MHz channels -- for delivering voice, video, and data.

If the 802.16m specification gets ratified this year -- as operators like Yota and vendors such as Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) expect -- then it is likely to reignite the debate about what is and isn't "4G" and the evergreen "LTE versus WiMax" fight. (See WiMax vs. LTE: The Rematch.)

This is because neither WiMax nor Long Term Evolution (LTE) actually meets the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) 's requirements for IMT-Advanced or fourth-generation wireless networks. The key requirements of IMT-Advanced are downlink speeds of 100Mbit/s in the wide area with high mobility, and 1Gbit/s in low-mobility scenarios; low latency at less than 10-millisecond roundtrip delay; and very wide spectrum bandwidths of up to 100MHz.

The IEEE is pushing WiMax release 2.0 as its evolution to 4G. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is offering LTE-Advanced as its next-gen upgrade. The ITU is expected to evaluate the two specifications until at least October 2010.

So far it appears that WiMax 2 will be the first technology to get tested. Russian operator Yota says it will work with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) to test 802.16m late in 2010. (See Yota Trials WiMax 2.0.) — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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