WiMax Gets Serious
Startups, smaller gear vendors, and wireless ISPs aren't waiting for the big boys but are plowing ahead with nearly-WiMax equipment and services now -- in just the same way vendors started to offer wireless LAN equipment based around the 802.11g (54 Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) standard months before that was ratified.
WiMax -- or 802.16a to its friends -- is the new hip term to drop in wireless circles [ed. note: WiFi is soooo last year, dahlink]. Fans of WiMax claim that the technology -- which is intended to provide high-speed data services over distances of 30 miles or so -- will replace everything from 3G cellular networks to DSL and wireless LAN, and still cook you breakfast in the morning.
Tigard, Ore.-based wireless ISP VeriLAN Inc. is claiming to be one of the first operators in the U.S. to offer a fixed wireless service using a WiMax-like service -- in the Portland area -- using equipment from Canadian vendor Wi-LAN Inc. (Toronto: WIN).
VeriLAN can't actually brand its service with the WiMax name yet, because the WiMax Forum won't ratify the first specification to bear that name until the summer.
"It's 99 percent there," Steven Schroedl, the president of VeriLAN told Unstrung. "But the forum doesn't want anyone using the name yet."
As well as Wi-LAN, Intel partner Alvarion Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR) and Redline Communications Inc. have recently introduced WiMax-ish kit.
Joe English, WiMax campaign manager at Intel, doesn't seem too worried about any problems with pre-WiMax kit coming onto the market before the real deal is ratified.
"It very much resembles what this specification will eventually become," English says. The difference is that the WiMax Forum will undertake interoperability testing between different WiMax-branded kit.
What seperates equipment from the smaller firms and upcoming gear from the likes of Alcatel is that Alvarion and others will produce kit intended as wireless cable replacement subscriber boxes, while the Gallic Gargantua's products will be targeted at the carrier market, English reckons.
Intel is due to launch its first WiMax silicon in the second half of this year, and English looks for the first WiMax-certified products to follow in early 2005. Alcatel and Siemens are plotting product for the second half of next year.
Of course, this being wireless, the terminology that describes the underlying technology just has to be confusing. Intel's first chips will actually be based on the 802.16a revision d specification, which is intended for fixed wireless applications. After that will follow silicon based on the 802.16a revision e specification, which is aimed at mobile wireless applications where battery life is a concern. According to Intel's English, some people call 802.16a rev d "802.16d... for shorthand."
Clear as mud, eh, readers?
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung