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WiMax Lab Opens Its Doors

The WiMAX Forum has begun testing the first batch of equipment based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE)’s fixed wireless 802.16-2004 specification, a move that paves the way for eventual availability of official WiMax kit that will replace the glut of "pre-WiMax" products currently being touted by vendors.

Testing is underway at Cetecom SA’s laboratory in Malaga, Spain (see WiMax Forum Unveils Plans and WiMax Forum Selects Test Lab). “The door is open,” Mo Shakouri, VP of marketing at the WiMAX Forum, and AVP for business development at Alvarion Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR), tells Unstrung. “Vendors have started shipping equipment to the lab.”

Shakouri declines to reveal the identity of vendors involved in the early rounds of testing, but Unstrung understands that the likes of Alvarion, Aperto Networks, Redline Communications Inc., Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) have all submitted equipment.

“As a forum we cannot comment on who will go to the lab. The only thing we will do is say who passes the test and gets certification... It’s very good to see multiple vendors already, though.”

Initial activity will involve conformance testing of kit in the licensed 3.5GHz frequency band, followed by interoperability tests using silicon, base stations, and CPE kit from different vendors. Products that pass both conformance and interoperability testing will be tagged "WiMax certified" and ready for commercial availability.

“At the end of 2005, the actual certification will finish and then you’ll get mass-market products in the beginning of 2006,” says Shakouri.

The Forum’s marketing man adds that testing in the 5.8GHz spectrum band is likely to occur next year, with plans afoot to open additional testing labs. “Our target goal is to put labs close to where vendors are making equipment as that is where it is needed. But, first, it’s important to stabilize everything, make sure we understand everything, and then after that, move to other locations.”

A mobile version of WiMax –- currently dubbed 802.16e –- is expected to be ratified by the IEEE by the end of this year. The WiMAX Forum expects to start certification testing of 802.16e kit in the third quarter of 2006, with mass-market commercial availability touted for a 2007 timeframe.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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