WiMax Gear OK on the Way

The first vendors to get an official WiMax badge for their broadband wireless equipment are expected to be announced next week at the International Symposium of the Wireless Communications Association International (WCA) , according to an industry source.

The successful certification of equipment approved by the WiMAX Forum -- after a long and frequently delayed testing process -- marks the most significant step to date in the development of new broadband wireless technology, which could in the next few years provide high-speed connections to many homes, small businesses, and mobile workers across the U.S. and Europe.

Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) executive VP Sean Maloney, head of the chipmaking giant's Mobility Group, will deliver the keynote address next Wednesday, and is expected to identify the vendors that have successfully completed the WiMAX Forum's Phase 1 testing and certification process. (See A Dash of WiMax Reality.)

Several companies, including Airspan Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: AIRN), Redline Networks Inc. , Aperto Networks Inc. , Axxcelera Broadband Wireless , and Sequans Communications , participated in a "plugfest" demonstration of WiMax equipment during the the Global WiMax Summit in Beijing last November. (See A Dash of WiMax Reality.) The list of firms with products certified in next week's first wave will probably come from this group.

The progress of mobile broadband wireless equipment to market has been delayed more than once over the last few years by disagreements over standards and turmoil in the small group of broadband-wireless companies.

Observers now hope that WiMAX Forum-certified products will go on sale in mid-2006, with products for the mobile market following in early 2007.

Once high-bandwidth applications can be used on laptops, cellphones, and other handheld devices, the market for WiMax is expected to expand rapidly. Rapid growth in WiMax services will fuel a "rapid revolution of broadband wireless access as an essential communications tool," Roger Marks, chairman of the IEEE working group on 802.16, the official standard that covers WiMax, said last year. 802.16e, which will serve as the primary basis for mobile WiMax technology, was approved by the Institute in December.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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