WiMax Wins ITU Approval

WiMax has been approved as an official International Telecommunication Union (ITU) mobile wireless standard, according to an email posted on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 802.16e Working Group reflector last night.

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

lrmobile_Ziggy 12/5/2012 | 3:00:28 PM
re: WiMax Wins ITU Approval I can see the impact on the "UMTS Extension Bands", but what about the current UMTS TDD bands around 2GHz? My understanding is that a lot of operators have TDD spectrum and that UMTS TDD (e.g. IPWireless) never really got any sizeable traction. Will this decision make it easier to deploy WiMAX in this currently licensed but unused spectrum (assuming that there would be a WiMAX profile for 2GHz)?
IPobserver 12/5/2012 | 3:00:27 PM
re: WiMax Wins ITU Approval Considering that most countries (esp. Europe) are sticking with IMT-2000 guidance in the 2GHz band, then, theoretically, this would make it easier for a regulator to approve WiMax in 2GHz TDD spectrum.

I asked Paul Senior about this (he's quoted in the article and is ion the board of the WiMAX Forum). Apparently, there's no plan to develop a WiMax profile for this band in the near-term.

I'd observe that no one seems especially excited about it. Partly it's because the TDD spectrum bands are just 5 MHz and are split between several different 3G carriers.

I'll check back and find out if there's some other regulatory or technical barrier (e.g. interference limits).
freetoair 12/5/2012 | 3:00:27 PM
re: WiMax Wins ITU Approval It is fundamentally a business -- not a technology question.

Consider that the spectrum licenses are allocated/owned and 3G deployed. So no space for new operator to aquire spectrum, no driver for existing to use WiMAX. If mobile broadband usage requires more capacity then perhaps existing or new operators would look to extension bands (or any other band) and consider WiMAX at that time. Hence why create a profile that has no use...
BTW yes of course there are regulatory barriers -- scope too much for here...
lrmobile_Ziggy 12/5/2012 | 3:00:26 PM
re: WiMax Wins ITU Approval Is it fair to say that the 2GHz TDD spectrum is underused? My understanding is that UMTS TDD never really took off. Is it simply because there wasn't enough TDD spectrum to be worth the investment and handset added cost? Will it be different for the UMTS extension band? Sprint has plenty of TDD-friendly spectrum, but will we end up with mostly FDD spectrum everywhere else?
IPobserver 12/5/2012 | 3:00:21 PM
re: WiMax Wins ITU Approval 2GHz TDD spectrum is barely used at all in Europe.

The key reference is T-Mobile in the Czech Republic, which uses 5 MHz of TDD spectrum at 2 GHz to provide fixed/portable broadband access using IPWireless gear.

In the UK there's been talk of all the operators combining their TDD spectrum to create a mobile TV broadcast network. This has some attraction, even if the frequency is not ideal for traditional broadcast.

The problem has been that UMTS TDD uses different technology than UMTS FDD, so there's no economy of scale (e.g. no dual-mode handsets) to really make it worthwhile to use the spectrum.

This is a widely-acknowledged mistake and LTE is explicitly addressing this by specifying both FDD & TDD support.

Globally, most mobile spectrum is paired and FDD looks set to remain dominant for at least the next 5 years, even as TDD makes inroads.

As an aside, the Chinese TDD spec has now been deployed in 10 cities, according to this blog: http://blogs.nmscommunications...

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