04:05 PM

Early Adoption Of Mobile WiMax Gets Under Way

Xanadoo Wireless High-Speed Internet has more than 12,000 subscribers using the service in Texas. Razzolink has begun establishing WiMax service in the Salinas Valley in California.

While WiMax pioneer Intel has proclaimed 2008 as "the year of WiMax," the wide area wireless technology, particularly the most-coveted mobile WiMax version, has actually started to roll out in an almost stealth manner in the United States in recent weeks.

Xanadoo Wireless High-Speed Internet has reported it has more than 12,000 subscribers using the service in its service area in Texas. Razzolink has begun establishing WiMax service in the Salinas Valley in California.

"This is what we've been waiting for," said Maryvonne Tubb, director of marketing for Navini Networks, which supplies the 802.16e equipment to both companies. "It looks like a cable modem. The only difference is that you can take it around with you and it will work."

In fact, that's precisely what John Iacopi, president of Razzolink, does now and then. "I can sit in my car -- in the passenger's seat -- and go 55 miles an hour and surf the Net," he said in an interview. "But that's not how I suspect I'll use it most of the time; I'll be able to use it when I get to where I want to be."

Iacopi said Razzolink's main target has been rural subscribers who can't get or don't want DSL or cable. He said mobile WiMax will have a bright future as consumers gradually figure out its advantages. Razzolink, which has about 3,000 subscribers, has placed its radios on existing towers and has built a few of its own. It operates in the 2.6-GHz spectrum.

Noting that he regards his 802.16e deployment as a beta test with Navini, Iacopi said setting up a new customer is as simple as delivering a modem and "flipping up the antenna." On rare occasions, an antenna is placed on a subscriber's roof.

Xanadoo serves an area in Texas covering Lubbock, Wichita Falls, and Abeline, and recently moved to expand service into Lawton, Okla. Xanadoo COO Rory Lindgren noted that the service has thrived in the face of competition from entrenched suppliers of DSL, cable broadband, and alternative wireless providers. Xanadoo's service operates on the 2.5-GHz spectrum, and he said the company's offerings can move relatively effortlessly from fixed WiMax to mobile Wimax.

Tubbs said Navini designed its WiMax offerings from the start to be able to be upgraded via a simple "over-the-air software upgrade" to easily conform with different releases in WiMax standards and specifications as they are adopted.

Navini has supplied its Ripwave MX product line to 70 networks on six continents. The largest is Unwired Australia, a 70,000-subscriber deployment in Sydney and Melbourne.

Other suppliers, including Alvarion Networks and Motorola (pdf), have recently begun promoting mobile Wimax offerings aggressively.

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