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Mobile

US WiMax Looks to 2006

CHICAGO – Supercomm 2005 – Broadband wireless vendors here in the Windy City are anticipating that early WiMax services could be launched in the U.S. in the middle of 2006 and that big-name operators will likely play a role in any such deployments.

Alvarion Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR) today announced WiMax products for the American market that it plans to start shipping early in 2006.

The BreezeMax 2300 base station will operate in the 2.3GHz WCS spectrum, and the 2500 will operate in the 2.5-2.7GHz band (the spectrum formerly known as MMDS). The firm is expected to announce Intel-based customer premises equipment (CPE) shortly.

The firm anticipates that field trials of the 2300 will start at the end of this year.

Yesterday Aperto Networks announced that it plans to start shipping 2.5GHz boxes shortly after the third quarter of 2005 (see Aperto Readies WiMax Boxes).

It's likely that the latest batch of infrastructure is aimed at major wireless and wireline operators in the U.S. such as BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS), Nextel Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NXTL), Sprint Wireless (NYSE: PCS), and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). These carriers are the major owners of these spectrum bands in the U.S.

"I think it's safe to say that Alvarion doesn't build products it doesn't think there's a market for," allows Carlton O'Neal, Alvarion's vice president of marketing. "It is an indication that the big carriers are coming."

And he expects them to come sooner rather than later. "Mid-2006, absolutely," he says, when asked about the timescale for WiMax services stateside.

Sprint has been the most vocal in its intention to trial WiMax, although the operator has so far said that it doesn't expect to offer services until 2007 (see Sprint Firms Up WiMax Plans). BellSouth yesterday announced that it is undertaking a trial using so-called "pre-WiMax" kit from Navini Networks Inc. (see BellSouth Maxes in Georgia).

O'Neal envisages operators using the gear to provide broadband for customers in rural areas who haven't been well served by cable or DSL. Its long been recognized that wireless broadband represents a much less expensive option for operators wishing to provide more bits for their buck to country folk (see WiMax: Town & Country).

"Rural customers want broadband," O'Neal says. "All the RBOCs have a thousand or two thousand of these towns."

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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