WiMax Edges Closer to LTE

The frequency division duplex (FDD) version of mobile WiMax has taken a big step toward approval by the WiMAX Forum , Unstrung has learned.

According to documents seen by Unstrung, a recommendation for an FDD profile for three different frequency bands was made to the WiMAX Forum's technical working group at a meeting last week.

The development turns up the heat in the competition between next-generation mobile broadband technologies WiMax and long-term evolution (LTE), particularly in the U.S. and Europe.

The document specifies the following frequency bands for the FDD profile: the 2.496GHz to 2.690GHz band; the AWS band; and the 700MHz band.

The former band, or IMT-2000 expansion band, is particularly relevant to the European market as several countries will auction licenses this year, including Norway, Sweden, and the U.K. The latter two bands are relevant for the U.S. market. (See Europe Makes Way for WiMax, Want Swedish Spectrum?, PTS Plans Spectrum Auction, Craig Goes to Norway, and Norway Awards WiMax Licenses.)

Within those frequency bands, channel bandwidths were also proposed. In the 2.496GHz – 2.690GHz and the AWS bands, the recommended bandwidths are 2x5 MHz and 2x10 MHz. In the 700GHz band, there are three recommended channel bandwidths.

Current mobile WiMax technology is based on time division duplex (TDD), but the available TDD spectrum is limited. Having an FDD version would make the mobile broadband air interface eligible to be deployed in much more of the world's available spectrum. (See WiMax Gets ITU Standards Boost , ITU Recommends WiMax Approval, and Spectrum up for Grabs in Europe.)

And that means an FDD version of WiMax could become a more viable competitor to LTE.

"Having an FDD option is critical for mobile WiMax's success," says Paul Senior, CTO of Airspan Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: AIRN). [Ed note: Senior did not supply the WiMAX Forum document to Unstrung.] "Without an FDD version of WiMax, it would be hard to compete with LTE."

Senior says that the work already done within the Forum is enough to start developing FDD products, and he foresees products being available in 2009.

However, there is still some way to go before the FDD WiMax profile is officially approved by the WiMAX Forum.

Mohammad Shakouri, vice president of marketing at the WiMAX Forum, says he can't comment on any internal Forum document. He also stresses that an internal document does not indicate Forum policy.

"There is no approved board policy yet regarding which new spectrum we will use," he says, adding that the Forum is analyzing new frequency bands.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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