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« Heidelberg to get WiMax Soon | Main | WiMax vs. 3G »

August 22, 2005

Possible Delays in Certification

By Nancy Gohring

The WiMax certification process may be a bit behind schedule: It’s hard to know, however, if WiMax Forum members are back peddling or just filling in some details. In April and again in July, the WiMax Forum very clearly in press releases stated that the lab would be open and accepting equipment for certification in July. Now, forum members are saying that in July plugfest began and official certification testing won’t start until October. Many of them are insisting that this isn’t a delay but part of the original plan.

I got a call from the folks at Alvarion last week, offering to explain the process in an effort to clear up this confusion but frankly it’s still not clear if the forum is stretching the truth or if in fact all is still going according to plan. Carlton O’Neal, Alvarion’s vice president of marketing, explained that plugfest started in July. Alvarion is not participating in plugfest and O’Neal suggested that plugfest may not be a very significant activity. “Plugfest is a term that sounds kind of more centralized or more structured than I think it is,” he said. However, he cautioned that because Alvarion isn’t taking part in plugfest, he may not have the best insight.

Clearly, Alvarion doesn’t see much value in taking part in plugfest. “It’s a personal choice for those [vendors] if they want to be there,” O’Neal said. “It doesn’t speed up us being certified or slow it down.”

O’Neal was crystal clear on official certification. “What isn’t going on is certification testing. The reason I know that is because wave one doesn’t start until October,” he said.

Certification happens in two waves. The first is conformance testing, where the equipment is run through a set of tests aimed at concluding that the equipment matches the WiMax version of the 802.16 specification. Equipment that passes wave one moves on to wave two, where it is tested for interoperability against equipment from at least two other vendors.

O’Neal suggested that there may indeed be further uncertainties to the initial wave of certification. While it’s been generally assumed that the first set of equipment to be tested will be FDD in the 3.5 GHz band, he said that recently there has been some buzz over TDD in the 3.5 GHz band being the first type of gear to be tested. Also, he suggested that there actually may be some doubt that equipment from three vendors will be available at the start of certification in order to do the interoperability testing. “The ultimate issue at hand for certification testing, and there’s a certain amount of risk associated with it, is the critical mass of three vendors has to be in the same frequency and the same duplexing scheme,” he said.

As a reminder, in January, the WiMax Forum called on a lot of journalists to try to clarify the schedule after some reactionary stories heralded a setback to the certification process. Around that time, the forum had started talking about doing certification in July, rather than earlier in the year as had been initially planned. But the forum told me and other journalists that the July timeframe had been agreed among members back in early 2004.

Throughout this year I’ve consistently heard either directly from the forum or in official forum press releases that July was to be the start of certification. If the forum considers plugfest to be the start of certification, the forum should have spelled that out, in order to avoid this existing confusion and some potential negative press. Personally, I think that the start of certification means just that—certification, not plugfest.

Posted by nancyg at August 22, 2005 2:33 PM

Categories: WiMax Forum

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