WiMax Wins ITU Approval
News that WiMax is now officially a member of the IMT-2000 family of 3G standards should make it easier for operators to deploy networks in markets where spectrum is allocated specifically to IMT technologies. (See WiMax Gets ITU Standards Boost .)
Initially this ruling will affect the so-called "UMTS Extension Bands" -- frequencies at 2.5 GHz to 2.6 GHz. European regulators are due to start allocating this spectrum from January 2008. (See Europe Makes Way for WiMax.)
The band is also the key focus for WiMax vendors and operators. "We've already built a profile for 2.5 GHz and 2.6 GHz," says Paul Senior, CTO of Airspan Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: AIRN) and a WiMAX Forum board member, commenting on the ITU decision to Unstrung. "That's the flagship mobile WiMax profile."
Another benefit of the decision is that it positions WiMax to take a fuller role in the ITU Advanced 4G program, and smoothes the way for WiMax supporters to participate on a more equal footing in the upcoming World Radio Congress 2007 that begins later this month in Switzerland. (See WRC to Meet in Geneva.)
While undoubtedly good news for WiMax, the ITU decision should be kept in context. IMT-2000 is not binding on national regulators, and some markets, such as the U.S. and the U.K., already lean towards technology-neutral spectrum allocation. So even without IMT status, WiMax could have been deployed if market conditions warranted it.
The other catch is that the ITU, under heavy lobbying pressure, has identified WiMax as a Time Division Duplex (TDD) technology, and not approved its use in the Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) bands that account for upwards of 80 percent of the world's licensed spectrum.
But WiMax's supporters say this isn't such a big deal in the short term. "TDD is all we're doing right now on mobile WiMax," notes Airspan's Senior. "There is a move to do an FDD profile, but it's still a work in progress."
— Gabriel Brown, Chief Analyst, Unstrung Insider