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Mobile WiMax Goes Mini

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
6/27/2006

Asserting that current "macro-cell" architectures are insufficient for meeting the demand of emerging wireless broadband systems, OFDMA-gear vendor Adaptix Inc. said yesterday it is releasing a suite of third-generation WiMax equipment based on more numerous and more dense "micro-cell" layouts.

Designed to address the market for high-bandwidth applications beyond voice, using smaller cell footprints, the new BX-3000 Micro base stations and SX series of mobile terminals are based on the IEEE standard 802.16e-2005 standard for mobile WiMax, but are easily adapted to support future forms of broadband including multiple-input/multiple-output (MIMO) systems as well as the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) ’s Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard, both of which are likely to use OFDMA as their underlying networking technology.

"Voice is really still the dominant [wireless] application, even today with 3G capabilities," says Adaptix vice president of marketing and product management Byron Young, "with the network built around these macro-cell base stations that are as big as refrigerators and cost anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 a crack."

The Adaptix system, by contrast, is designed for mobile carriers that need to get the highest performance in terms of bandwidth in the most cost-efficient and spectrally efficient manner. The new base stations, says Young, will cost from $20,000 up to nearly $40,000, while the mobile terminals will run between $250 and $300 each. That price is expected to drop rapidly as mobile WiMax systems proliferate over the next two years. (See Moto: Mobile WiMax Is In.)

For next-generation, multimedia applications such as mobile IPTV, streaming video, and wireless WAN interfaces that require bandwidths of 1 Mbit/s and upward, Young says, the current architecture of large, powerful base stations with wide ranges will not suit.

"The issue is how to handle these speeds, and over the long haul there's only one answer: cell stations have to shrink," he asserts. "The cell sizes will come down to 1-4 kilometers instead of tens of square miles, particularly in the city, and instead of a few very expensive base stations, you'll have a large number of micro-cell base stations. The whole capex model is going to change dramatically."

Funded by Baker Capital Corp. , which controls three of the four board seats, Adaptix emerged from early OFDMA pioneer BroadStorm. Much of the current management team was brought in a fall 2005 restructuring. Based in Dallas, the company has its engineering and manufacturing facility in Shanghai.

Concentrating on mobile WiMax, as opposed to the earlier, "fixed" 802.16d standard, Adaptix has developed a "virtual base station" set-up that comprises the compact base station plus as many as three outdoor RF antennas that will, for instance, enable flexible installation options for buildings.

"The customer demand is shifting rapidly away from 16d to the 16e mobile WiMax products," says Young, "even if you're going to be serving broadband to the home or to an office building."

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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