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Tests Start For First Certified WiMax Products

With several WiMax firms crowding the starting gate for formal introduction of the wide area wireless technology, equipment from at least five firms are being evaluated by the WiMAX Forum's Cetecom Labs in Spain.

With several WiMAX firms crowding the starting gate for formal introduction of the wide area wireless technology, equipment from at least five firms are being evaluated by the WiMAX Forum's Cetecom Labs in Spain.

At the same time, several companies not seeking certification are testing WiMAX at locations around the world. Most of the firms offering “pre-WiMAX” product are guaranteeing that their solutions will be WiMAX-compatible when the Forum issues its standard.

The firms being examined for certification include Airspan Networks, Aperto Networks, Proxim, Sequans, and Wavesat. Other firms including Alvarion and Navini Networks are installing and testing pre-WiMAX gear.

“The interoperability testing is starting this month,” said Adlane Fellah, CEO of Montreal, Canada-based Maravedis, a WiMAX market researcher.

WiMAX is expected to be rolled out in different spectrums in different countries. In an interview, Fellah said he expects the 3.5GHz bandwidth to represent the largest market opportunity for vendors.

While major U.S. telecommunications service providers like Sprint and BellSouth have been testing WiMAX, widespread deployment in the U.S. is expected to lag other countries. Airspan, for instance, said it expects to ship WiMAX gear for use in the 4.9GHz spectrum in Japan later this year.

Fellah said much of the preliminary trails in the U.S. are being conducted in the 2.5GHz band and while that deployment isn’t expected to get underway in a big way until late 2006, there are certain advantages to that bandwidth.

“The lower the frequency, the better the propagation characteristics leading to better coverage and penetration of the signals,” he said. “This in turn leads to a lesser number of required base stations and lower CAPEX and therefore more profitable business plans. Usually below 2.5GHz is better and below 1GHz is the holy grail.”

An Airspan spokesman said his firm has sent 2.5GHz gear to Sprint for trial and 3.5GHz to AT&T. Sprint and its merger partner Nextel own a large portfolio of 2.5GHz spectrum.

Fellah noted that WiMAX’ complexity grows because different countries are approaching the technology in various ways. Italy, for instance, is moving to shift its 3.5GHz spectrum to make way for WiMAX while Korean suppliers are developing “WiBro-based equipment at 2.3GHz with prototypes due at the beginning of 2006.” The Korean products are similar to WiMAX, he added.

As for the certification process, Airspan noted that the products currently under review must pass both protocol and radio conformance tests. Then they will be tested for interoperability with approval expected later this year.

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