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Andrew Viterbi suggested that broadband wireless has a smaller potential market than estimated: He co-founded Qualcomm, and doesn’t believe the applications merit bandwidth beyond what’s currently be rolled out. The prices would make it prohibitive. It’s unclear from the reportage whether he was speaking generally or just about mobile broadband, although the latter seems likely.
Alvarion issued a press release about their 10,000 BreezeMax Pro subscriber unit orders: They’ve shipped 5,000 of these already to 30 customers. These early units employ Intel’s 802.16-2004 chipset which can’t yet be called WiMax certified. Numbers from anyone else?
UAB “Netlas Tinklas” has launched in the Baltic state of Lithuania: It uses 3G UMTS TDD, which is a technology sold by IP Wireless, and is one of the many considered one of the potential broadband wireless winners for mobility. IP Wireless says the standard supports full mobility and 3 Mbps data rates. UAB has yet to sign agreements with customers, but continues to deploy in Vilnius and soon elsewhere.
Lithuania has several characteristics as a country shared with its neighbors Latvia and Estonia. They each have unique cultural and linguistic histories, and are each coming into the 21st century at different. Estonia has been an early and rapid adopter of wireless technology; Lithuania’s major telco just announced a major hotspot rollout. Any news on Latvia?
(Lithuania also has the closest living relative to Sanskrit extant today.)
Monica Paolini has written a perfectly clear explanation of how WiMax certification works and what to expect (PDF): Paolini runs the Senza Fili Consulting practice and focuses on wireless broadband. This short, general-business-audience rundown of WiMax certification should provide a guide for anyone trying to track where the industry is at.
It was clear to me before reading her white paper that this month’s WiMax certification is just a bagatelle; it doesn’t offer the kind of tests that would drive large deployments. I’d heard this from vendors, and Paolini’s explanation makes it abundantly clear why that’s so.
At a trade show, major telecom operators said WiMax’s can’t compete in their world with DSL and cable: Costs will drop to the range they need to deploy, and they aren’t claiming that niche uses are unprofitable or pointless. This confirms what some WiMax vendors have been saying: that operators want the whole certification picture sorted out, volume production, and real-world trials of final silicon. And then they’ll sit on that for a while. The operators also cited limitations in licensed spectrum in the U.S. as a hindrance to deployment.
InfiNet Wireless signs to supply gear for 28 Russian Federation cities: Enforta BV will build out a national broadband wireless network using WiMax gear supplied by InfiNet. Broadband has two percent penetration in Russia. The rollout will span 24 months.
The company’s facilities were hit hard and pre-standard WiMax is a way to reconnect (and regain) businesses: They’re only offering a maximum of 1.5 Mbps downstream ($70 per month), but I imagine there will be a large number of takers as DSL and T-1 service may simply not be available for the foreseeable future, or businesses may want the flexibility of a fixed but movable antenna that they can use as they shuffle through different locations.
TeleCis Wireless has a fixed WiMax demonstration network running to showcase their chip, which competes with Intel’s: The company claims a higher area for their WiMax implementation than Intel’s, but it’s important to remember that there’s no certified chips or reference designs yet. In the certification process, tweaks can be required to meet the trade group spec and that can affect performance.
The article unfortunately repeats several myths about fixed WiMax: A Wi-Fi antenna’s reach is typically about 100 meters while a WiMax signal can travel 1-to-3 miles easily and as far as 10 miles under the right conditions. A WiMax user does not need a line of sight to an antenna like a Wi-Fi user.
The big difference is mobility. Wi-Fi is designed as a mobile spec; fixed WiMax is not. Wi-Fi isn’t a point-to-multipoint standard, but it can work in that mode. However, it’s best used for point-to-point over long distances. Wi-Fi can run many, many miles in point-to-point configurations using existing technology. That’s not really the difference.
The non-line-of-sight (NLOS) issue is separate. WiMax isn’t magic. It can’t penetrate physical objects in a way that Wi-Fi can’t. Instead, it’s designed to be much more robust than Wi-Fi, which is highly sensitive to obstacles in its direct LOS. Radio waves still have to get through the Fresnel zone, as I understand it, to work in NLOS situations. (RF experts are welcome to post below with more detailed explanations!)
Over at Wi-Fi Networking News, I link to a new white paper from a Qualcomm marketing VP on his view on mobile WiMax: Mobile WiMax isn’t yet a standard, has a long road to go for deployment, and will face issues that dog cellular rollout. So how will it “beat” cellular? Qualcomm’s Jeffrey Belk has a vested interest in his company’s technology and patents winning the day, but his arguments are sound and interesting. I’ve written a long analysis on our main site, Wi-Fi Networking News, and a link to his downloadable paper.
IPWireless’s technology powers the T-Mobile’s so-called fourth generation (4G) network for broadband data, video: The technology is designed for both fixed broadband replacement and mobile access. The initial roll-out is in Prague, Czech Republic. Voice isn’t mentioned in the press release. The service is offered at 512 Kbps (699 korunas/US$29 + 19% VAT per month) or 1 Mbps (999K/US$41 + VAT), but speeds are not guaranteed. While they’re calling this 4G, the lack of initial voice integration makes it hard to take that label seriously.
I’ll confess ignorance: I can’t seem to find a solid definition of 4G as there is for 3G. Older sources claim that 4G will top 100 Mbps. Others seem to include converged IP networks that carry voice, data, and video. Enlightenment welcome in comments.
Over in the Slovak Republic earlier this week, T-Mobile opened up a Flash-OFDM network that offers 512 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps service for mobile and fixed data. Video and voice aren’t mentioned in this article.
Clearwire’s WiMax modems will be sold in Best Buy stores as self-install kits: In the areas that Clearwire covers, mostly communities in the U.S. that are urban but not metropolises, Best Buy will offer the small modem needed for reception and distribution in a home. This includes 25 stores to start with. Big-box distribution of modems is a much cheaper way than operating their own storefronts, and allows Best Buy to promote the service as well.
Alvarion said that multiple operators will conduct a total of 11 pre-WiMax trials in Italy: A state ministry has appointed a testing group to monitor the trials performance with results due by the end of the year.
Proxim put out a press release stating that they’re expecting certification of devices this month: But they didn’t say that theirs had already passed or give a date. Other WiMax vendors, notably Alvarion, say that this first certification won’t provide meaningful benchmarks for carrier-grade performance, focusing instead on basic functionality not interoperability or operational parameters.
Mainstream but in-depth article on WiMax in BusinessWeek: The writer looks at WiMax from several angles, talking primarily about its threat to cellular operators and their strategies for taking out mobile WiMax before it hits the streets. It’s an excellent article and well worth reading to get a view of the competitive and business landscape.
The writer conflates fixed and mobile WiMax a bit in the beginning: a fixed WiMax transceiver can’t create a hotspot dozens of miles long, and mobile WiMax won’t have that kind of range. Rather, mobile WiMax will create quite large and fast cells that will compete with cellular operators and Wi-Fi hotspots and fixed WiMax will very soon be an effective alternative for even long-range final mile broadband just as its precursors have been since the mid-1990s.
The article also seems optimistic about Intel’s mobile WiMax chip for laptops, suggesting that Intel will have them in Dell laptops next year even with the standard and certification not due until 2006 or 2007. My opinion from the folks I’ve talked to is that mobile WiMax won’t be fullblown until at least 2007, possibly later, at which point cell operators will have had years to develop services that will more directly compete, and Wi-Fi will be well into its 802.11n stage for greater throughput and distance.
Covad was rumored to be unveiling California-based pre-WiMax service this week: Instead, it seems, they acquired NextWeb, a firm that offers service to 3,000 businesses in California and Nevada, including competitive markets like San Francisco and Los Angeles. The AP story says that NextWeb’s service is available in 175 cities and has a reach of 200,000 businesses within its coverage area.
These 3,000 businesses aren’t valued at much: the entire deal is $23 million with the assumption of $1.7 million in debt; it pays out just $4 million in cash. That means the average revenue from each of these customers must be tiny or the revenue-to-acquisition price multiple is tiny. At one-times-cash-flow, each customer would be worth just $7,000 per year on average. I’m surprised at the valuation.
Strix, a mesh equipment maker, says WiMax will be a plug-in radio: The company has multi-radio devices already that work in 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, and will support WiMax in licensed bands as well. A fixed WiMax and later mobile WiMax swapout for units in the field is just a radio away, the company says, when the equipment is ready. Strix also joined the WiMax Forum.
Om Malik reports that Covad should launch its pre-WiMax broadband wireless this week: The initial service will roll out in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Malik notes that SF and LA already have TowerStream service.
In talking with Speakeasy at the launch of their pre-WiMax service a few months ago in Seattle, they described the difference between themselves and TowerStream in a number of ways, one of which was that they eschew the “wireless ring in the air” idea in which TowerStream runs their backbone in part among stations way up high. Speakeasy leases a lot of local fiber, and they’d rather run the maximum bandwidth to each location they put a WiMax tower on.
Covad resells to EarthLink, Speakeasy, and other companies nationwide, and they also have a lot of fiber in their portfolio. If you already have fiber to a building, it’s fairly easy (once real-estate rights have been secured) to stick an antenna on the top of it.