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Nokia Commits to Mobile WiMax

Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) has ramped up efforts to develop kit based on 802.16e technology, the mobile WiMax standard due for ratification by the end of this year.

The Finnish vendor -- which last year rejoined the WiMax Forum following a previous snub -- is teaming with market driver Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) on development of mobile WiMax network equipment and devices (see Nokia, Intel Team on WiMax and Nokia Rejoins WiMax Forum).

Nokia is keen to stress that it does not regard WiMax as a competitive threat to its main cellular business. “We see it was a complementary solution,” says Anna Lindén, communications manager at the vendor’s networks division. “It really depends on the operator’s business case, regulatory issues, and what technologies they have already deployed and will choose in the future.”

WiMax will be based on the 802.16 specification from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE). The initial fixed-wireless version of WiMax is based on 802.16d; initial products are expected late in 2005 or early next year (see WiMax Spec Ratified and US WiMax Looks to 2006). Mobile WiMax products, based on 802.16e, will allow the user to transfer between base stations at driving speeds without losing the connection. Equipment is likely to hit the market in 2007, once the standard has been ratified and interoperability testing is complete.

A statement from Nokia notes that 802.16e technology will provide “a high-speed, limited coverage, data-only complement to the fully mobile and standardized 3G voice and broadband data networks being launched globally.”

Nokia is reluctant to specify a timescale for 802.16e product availability or comment on potential carrier trials. “The mobile WiMax version is only being standardized this year so it’s a bit premature to say,” says Lindén.

So when will standardization finally happen?

“802.16e is currently in the IEEE Sponsor Ballot, the final balloting stage prior to the IEEE approval process,” writes Brian G. Kiernan, chair of the 802.16e Task Group, in an email note to Unstrung. “We are just completing a third recirculation of the Sponsor Ballot and expect to have a fourth recirculation prior to the July 2005 IEEE 802 Plenary session in San Francisco. Barring any major complications during the final stages of the ballot, we plan at the July session to request that the 802.16e draft standard be forwarded to the IEEE for final approval. If successful, that approval would occur in September. Publication of the final standard would occur sometime after that, probably before year end.”

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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