In June, WiMAX enjoyed attention from a long series of announcements involving service providers and equipment vendors. Among them, AT&T announced it would start a field trial of the fixed version of WiMAX in Atlanta this fall; the company is planning to evaluate the technology, the applications that are feasible, and the business case. Qwest Communications indicated that it is evaluating fixed WiMAX technology and is planning a trial of residential and business userssupposedly in a location where DSL is not readily available.
On the equipment side, RedLine Communications announced WiMAX products for the 3.5-GHz licensed band available for broadband wireless service in Europe and Asia. Aperto Networks is testing WiMAX chips from Intel and Fujitsu.
As for mobile WiMAX, Nokia agreed to work with Intel to help complete the mobile WiMAX standard (IEEE 802.16e) and to eventually develop mobile equipment as well as infrastructure equipment to support the standard. This is notable because, until now, Nokia has had a fairly ambivalent stance toward WiMAX. Intel and ArrayComm, a leader in smart-antenna technology, announced a collaboration to incorporate smart-antenna capabilities into the IEEE 802.16 standard, with Intel planning to support ArrayComm's techniques in future IEEE 802.16e chipsets. Navini Networks announced a line of products, including client and base-station equipment. The client device will be available this year, while a PC Card modem and base-station equipment will roll out in 2006. Finally, Sprint entered into an agreement to jointly test Motorola's equipment in its 2.5-GHz spectrum band.
And then there's a group of companies calling their equipment "Pre WiMAX."Most of them intend to deliver WiMAX products, but they add to the confusion.
At what stage is WiMAX? It's in two very different places. The fixed version, based on IEEE 802.16-2004 (also referred to as IEEE 802.16d), is materializing: Chipsets are now available, initial interoperability testing is set to take place, and products will be generally available in 2006. Qwest and AT&T trials will use this version, and the likely applications will be DSL-type services and local telephone bypass. Smaller Internet service providers may jump onto this bandwagon, but will likely do it on a niche basis using the 5.8-GHz unlicensed band. We may see commercial service in 2006.
On the mobile side, things are fuzzier. Work on the specification continues, with hopes that it will be done by the end of the year. There's pressure to complete the specification because many vendors expect the mobile version to have much greater market potential. However, the earliest the networks could become available is the end of 2007. Many 3G vendors, especially on the infrastructure side, are planning to offer both 3G and mobile WiMAX products, to hedge their bets. Another trend is that vendors are being more conciliatory toward 3G. Early views were that mobile WiMAX would outperform 3G, but now vendors such as Nokia are saying that WiMAX will be complementary with 3G. The cellular community is already working on specifying evolved 3G systems and experimenting with 4G concepts. It will be fascinating to see whether WiMAX co-exists with, usurps, or is made redundant by these developments.Courtesy of Network Computing,
Peter Rysavy is president of Rysavy Research, a consulting firm specializing in wireless assessment and integration.