Enter the MAN Haters
Instead, Flarion and Navini are both talking up the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE)'s 802.20 specification, which is intended to provide broadband wireless mobility at driving speeds (see IEEE 802.20 Established). IPWireless has no plans to work with the IEEE at all.
There have been some suggestions that the IEEE 802.16a and 802.20 standards cover a lot of the same ground. The 802.16a standard calls for a fixed, non-line-of-sight wireless standard that can operate in the 2GHz to 11GHz bands, transferring data at up to 70 Mbit/s over a range of up to 30 miles, quite different from the intent of the 802.20 working group.
However, the 802.16e working group is intending to add some degree of mobility support to the fixed wireless standard (see MANs to Go Walkabout). And this is where some overlap between the two standards seems likely.
The technical details of the far newer 802.20 standard are still being defined, according to Sai Subramanian, vice president of product development at Navini. However, he says, the intent is to provide a wide-area, broadband standard that enables mobility and roaming among cell sites and can be easily installed by the end-user. These are the kinds of capabilities that a broadband wireless standard now has to support, Subramanian says.
"In my opinion, fixed wireless is an oxymoron," Subramanian says. "If it's fixed, why does it need to be wireless?" Subramanian feels that the 802.16 effort, which started two years ago, was before its time. "The 802.16 effort, though laudable… was put together by a few vendors with no significant carrier backing at all, who all got together and created a standard on paper."
Flarion's take is that the two standards are actually complementary. "It can be perceived that 16 and 20 are competing technologies," says that company's senior director of marketing strategy, Ronny Haraldsvik. "However, that is not the case. The IEEE wouldn't sanction the development of competing standards." IPWireless isn't part of any IEEE standards group, because it sees the organization as a computing interfaces standards body and prefers to work exclusively with telecommunications organizations like the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the UMTS Forum.
However, the startup, never a company to miss an opportunity to put the boot in, suggests that the WiMax Forum that is backing the 802.16 is largely made up of the equipment providers that aren't making headway in the market. "Most of the companies in there are the broadband wireless providers who weren't selected for the Sprint trials last year," notes Jon Hambridge, senior director of marketing.
For the record, the Members of the WiMax Forum include Aperto Networks, Fujitsu Ltd. (KLS: FUJI.KL), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), Proxim Corp. (Nasdaq: PROX), and Wi-LAN Inc. (Toronto: WIN).
"Quite honestly, I'm not worried about 802.16," says Hambridge. "If Intel's name hadn't been associated with [the recent] press release, nobody would have taken any notice." — Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung