Optical/IP Networks

WiMax Clear to Roam in Taiwan

Proto-4G technology WiMax took a step toward maturity today as operators and equipment suppliers showed off international roaming capabilities in Taiwan. (See WiMax Global Roaming Demo'd.)

Among the roaming demonstrations announced today, Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR)'s international business showed that one of Clear's registered USB devices could be used on a Taiwanese operator's network. Apart from the possibility of giving those Clearwire customers who just happen to visit Taiwan the ability to use their WiMax devices in the country, the move shows some progress toward developing international and national roaming capabilities, which the wireless broadband technology currently lacks.

Unlike its cellular rivals, WiMax does not have roaming specified in Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) standards. (See Group Tests WiMax Roaming and Clear to Roam Beyond Vegas.)

But Clearwire and other WiMax operators are on a mission to change that. Clearwire International president Barry West told Light Reading TV last month that he wants WiMax to get to the "same position" as GSM roaming, whereby any GSM device can be used on any GSM network in the world. See the full interview below.

To achieve this ambition, Clearwire has started working with Japanese operator UQ Communications Inc. and Russian operator Yota to enable roaming between these networks and Clear's in the U.S. as well as Clearwire's operations in Europe, such as Spain. (See Clearwire Signs Roaming Partners, Clearwire Takes WiMax to Spain, and ITU Day 2: WiMax Brings It.)

In the demonstrations announced today at the WiMAX Forum 's member conference in Taipei, the WiMax Roaming Exchange from Aicent Inc. was used to enable a Clear USB modem to be used on two Taiwanese operators' networks, Tatung InfoComm and VMAX. Roaming was also demonstrated between Tatung InfoComm and VMAX, which have licenses in the northern and southern regions of Taiwan, respectively.

Other companies participating in the demos include Samsung Corp. , Futureinfonet, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), and Bridgewater Systems Corp. (Toronto: BWC).

WiMax in Taiwan
The Taiwanese market has a thirst for WiMax, according to national research organization Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). WiMax customer premises equipment (CPE) shipments in Taiwan are expected to reach up to 2.72 million units by the end of this year for a market valued at 8 billion Taiwan new dollars (US$247 million), according to ITRI. And in 2010, WiMax CPE shipments in Taiwan are expected to increase to 6 million units for a market value of TWD23 billion ($709 million).

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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