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IEEE OKs 802.16e Standard

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) this morning announced the approval of the 802.16e standard, the specification that will serve as the basis for mobile WiMax technology.

Though the announcement had been expected since the standard was completed nearly two months ago, the news that 802.16e has been approved by IEEE’s Standards Board represents a major milestone in the development and implementation of mobile, broadband wireless services. (See Mobile WiMax Coming Soon?)

Mobile WiMax trials and certification testing by the WiMAX Forum could now proceed in the first half of 2006, industry observers say, with products to follow in late 2006 or 2007.

“Essentially we’ve been working for two years to enhance this fixed standard to deal with mobile WiMax as well,” says Roger Marks, chairman of the IEEE 802.16 Working Group. “A lot of parties have been eager for it to wrap up, so they can move this standard into actual gear.”

The key difference between the fixed and mobile WiMax standards is that a connection should be maintained using 802.16e even when moving between base stations. The new standard will also enable the introduction of more-efficient OFDMA radio technology. (See All Hail OFDMA!)

For enterprise users, today’s news brings the advent of mobile broadband one step closer to reality and could help clear up some of the confusion surrounding the advent of fixed vs. wireless WiMax and differing spectra in the United States.

“It means that, down the road, you’re going to have another choice [for broadband access],” explains Craig Mathias, principal wireless analyst at the Farpoint Group. “Let’s not kid ourselves: They’re building an industry from scratch here. Mobile users want broadband, and that’s precisely what this technology will offer. We view this as three years down the road, though."

“Let me put it this way: I might be cautious in signing a five-year or even a three-year networking contract," adds Marks, "because things will be changing dramatically in that time period.”

The next step in mobile WiMax’s development will come on the ski slopes at the Turin Winter Olympics in Italy next February. On Monday, (NYSE: TI) announced it will run trials of mobile “WiBro” technology (the Korean version of WiMax) with South Korean electronics giant Samsung Corp. during the Olympics, Feb. 10-26.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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