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The long-delayed first wave of WiMax certification should be announced in mid-January: Delays have been substantial and a large segment of the WiMax industry didn’t participate in this first wave of “air interface” trials, stating on the whole that they wouldn’t provide the kind of interoperability testing required by major telecommunications operators. Later waves will offer such tools, but companies like Alvarion are continuing to push their equipment into the field under the assumption it can be tweaked as needed or that vendors will simply deploy the current generation without worrying about later interoperability.
These delays are part of why many question the notion that 802.16e will be certified as a mobile flavor of WiMax and rollout into deployments by 2007. It seems much more like that 2008 or 2009 will see those rollouts unless the kinds of roadblocks that have pushed fixed WiMax back don’t exist or are eliminated before then.
This is not to criticize testing: In fact, it’s the hype that’s been the problem. It’s better to move slowly and produce equipment that works the way it’s supposed to. The industry is moving so fast, that interoperability has to take a back seat to sales.
Ed Sutherland says no in this Mobile Pipeline article: While mobile WiMax (802.16e) has been hyped as a replacement to Wi-Fi by some parties, it’s not coming to the table until somewhere in the 2007 to 2009 timeframe in any major deployments despite companies like Intel wanting it sooner. There are other technologies in the marketplace already competing with what 802.16e will bring, too, and they might win out.
Ultimately, mobile WiMax, Sutherland suggests, will be complementary to Wi-Fi if and when it appears. It may be just another tickmark on a list of supported features in a laptop and a competitive offering to municipal-scale Wi-Fi networks.
Natcom will start a trial in Auckland, New Zealand, of WiMax service: The Airthernet service starts with trials in January offering 2 to 10 Mbps. Companies that sign up will receive free equipment and pay a low rate during this period.
Are they using equipment certified in WiMax’s first round of basic testing? Not clear.
The basis for what will be mobile WiMax was approved by the IEEE today: Om Malik notes that with the standard done, the hard part is developing hardware and replicating cellular infrastructure. As Jeffrey Belk of Qualcomm wrote in a white paper a few weeks ago, the many challenges that face rolling out 3G cellular networks, from spectrum availability to real-estate rights for transmitters, equally apply to mobile WiMax. Add to that, that it’s a new standard without the real-world evolution that’s happened in the cell world, and there’s going to be a long lag between today and real, functioning, interoperable mobile WiMax equipment.
Over the next two to three years, however, we’ll be reading stories every week in the mainstream press that continue to conflate the abilities of fixed WiMax—something cell carriers are tremendously interested in for licensed use to backhaul tower traffic—and mobile WiMax. Fixed WiMax doesn’t operate in moving vehicles dozens of miles from a base station running at 72 Mbps. It can run fast, far, and mostly static, and not all three: you get fast when you’re close up and slow when you’re far away.
TechDirt is saying it will be 2008 before we see anything resembling real mobile WiMax given the timetable that took fixed WiMax from 802.16 standards work to a ratified proposal to the very first stages of certification that don’t offer real interoperable benefits today.
Nortel will roll out 8,000 square miles of WiMax: A governmental group and Nortel will build the network designed for 1 to 3 Mbps of access in heavily underserved areas of the province.
I can’t tell if the CTO of Ericsson is much better or worse informed than I am: The fellow doesn’t like mobile WiMax much (802.16e) because it’s a decade younger than cell standards that evolved into HSDPA. He’s pinning his star to 3G, and there are a lot of folks who will agree with that—and a lot on the other side of that debate.
He sees fixed WiMax (what is being called “d” here, but is 802.16-2004, encompassing everything up to 802.16d) as being a DSL substitute in areas lacking copper wire where a provider needs a competitive edge against 3G.
But he starts slipping on the ice, in my view, when he begins to deprecate the idea that Wi-Fi hotspots even exist and that operators wouldn’t run them even if the hardware were given to them gratis. Given the number of cell operators in Europe installing Wi-Fi hotspots at a breakneck pace; the 20,000 to 25,000 such locations in the U.S., about half of which are run or aggregated by major telcos; and the Asian rollout in South Korea, Japan, and elsewhere of Wi-Fi—it’s hard to fathom his take on this.
The ice starts to crack as I read that he thinks that carriers who offer UMA (unlicensed mobile access) will be countered by others who provide unlimited GSM at home using GPS to identify when you’re home…that’s just weird and contrary to stated plans, the growth of home and office Internet telephony and VoIP, and trends in the telecom world.
Finally, he plunges below the top layer of the frozen lake when he claims that Wi-Fi uses all kinds of power all the time, that prototype phones offering four hours of use in Wi-Fi mode when on standby won’t get better, and that Wi-Fi’s power usage is based on a laptop battery model. He’s not reading the spec of today’s low-power consumption chips, and he’s making a weird assumption that it can’t get better, when it’s already become radically improved in the first few generations of embedded Wi-Fi chips.
He ends by stating that Flarion is dead.