WiMax Gets Serious

Major infrastructure equipment players like Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and Siemens Information and Communication Mobile Group are plotting moves into the nascent WiMax market in 2005 using silicon from Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC).

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

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angelseye2000 12/5/2012 | 2:09:25 AM
re: WiMax Gets Serious Interview President WiMAX Forum

Listen to the audio discussion with Margaret LaBrecque
20K Stream - 42 min
WinMedia | Real | mp3
(full 42 min. show; 11.6 MB download)

whyfly 12/5/2012 | 2:09:24 AM
re: WiMax Gets Serious The WISPs are going to lose out in the long run but they will continue to grow for a couple years until the big boys, Verizon, Sprint, Nextel, move in. The WISPs will be confined to rural areas and the big boys will take up the metro areas with the MMDS spectrums they already own. But the broadband wireless deployment will be based on EV-DO and WCDMA instead of WiMAX.
FastFourier 12/5/2012 | 2:08:45 AM
re: WiMax Gets Serious Trond,
at the recent WI-LAN agm I asked someone who would know " when is wimax going to get realistic aboout that 30mile / 50km radius boast?". The answer was that point to point, only, that radius is feasible when used with focussed antennae.

The example of folks ( see http://nocat.net et.al.) getting 5-10 miles with 802.11b was the same idea some while ago.

So, the range issue depends on your perspective, point to point or point to multipoint? It is all in the engineering of the WAN.

FastFourier 12/5/2012 | 2:08:43 AM
re: WiMax Gets Serious "The WISPs will be confined to rural areas and the big boys will take up the metro areas with the MMDS spectrums they already own. But the broadband wireless deployment will be based on EV-DO and WCDMA instead of WiMAX."

Not a chance. WIMAX in unlicensed spectrum will be the WISP's and will force the EV-DO/WCDMA into oblivion. Why would I even use the telco ev/do offering if i can get the same or better bandwidth that has no license fee "recovery" built into the pricing.

Before you say "noise, & interference" you better read about the wimax base to cpe handshaking. Two wisp's antennae on the same tower, same unlicensed spectrum can differentiate between "their cpe" and their competitor/neighbor's. I think the telco's are going to crowd the wisps out, only when they layer on a lot of extra services that are needed.
El Rupester 12/5/2012 | 2:08:37 AM
re: WiMax Gets Serious FastFourier:

"WIMAX in unlicensed spectrum [...] the same or better bandwidth"

But presumably for WiMAX in unlicensed bands the equipment would have to obey the same EIRP (power, emission) restrictions as any other equipment in that unlicensed band.

So the performance you will get will be comparable to WiFi (similar rate, reach). If you want to get the 10s of Mbs over a few Km, you need a decent PA (say 5W?) - and that is only allowed in licenced spectrum.

"Licensed" is not a synonym for "3" -- in UK, PCCW bought licenses at 3.4GHz and could offer WiMAX (although I think they prefer WCDMA-TDD), and of course carriers in US own MMDS & LMDS bands.

The other advantages that cellular carriers have will be mobilty / ubiquity (your model is the same as WiFi hotspot coverage), and the ability to cross subsidisize from voice revenue. Look at Vodafones cash flow, and think what they might want to do to leverage their investment in 3G spectrum.

"Two wisp's antennae on the same tower, same unlicensed spectrum can differentiate"

As I understood it, "Not quite, not yet".
One BS can distinguish, yes, but unless the basestations coordinate then there is no differentiation. That coordination could be slot assignments, subchannelisation or different frequencies - but it is not automatic, it means the WISPS need to explictly agree how they will share the bandwidth.

It might get better with .d (subchannelisation, different codes) -- but I still think it is going to be predoiminantly a licensed deployment.
whyfly 12/5/2012 | 2:08:30 AM
re: WiMax Gets Serious el Rupester,

"... unless the basestations coordinate then there is no differentiation"

I agree with your assessment. As far as I know, there is no mechanism in the current 802.16a standard for base station to base station coordination. Incidentally, Marianna Goldhammer of Alvarion is currently discussing the interference issue in the 802.16 email reflector...


Her conclusion is that BS-to-BS separation needs to be at least 3.2 to 15.8 Km depending on the type of antenna used. For co-channel interfarence, BS-to-BS separation must be at least 120 Km!!!

Well, good luck with unlicensed WiMAX deployment!
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