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Qualcomm is calling it Ultra Mobile Broadband, but it smells like a WiMax competitor: Qualcomm has no interest in mobile WiMax, and lost out in the supplier deal to several WiMax-backing firms when Sprint picked its fourth-generation network architecture. But they’re out there plugging UMB, an evolution for its CDMA2000 standards that are currently deployed as EVDO. UMB can handle larger swaths of spectrum—up to 20 MHz channels, Qualcomm says—and speeds of up to 40 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up. They’re demonstrating a complete solution from modem to base station for carriers at the cell industry trade show this week.
(I believe UMB has previously also been known as EVDO Rev. C, just for some clarity, and the technology approach is what was once called 802.20 and was brought into the company through its acquisition of Flarion.)
One reason Sprint chose mobile WiMax over Qualcomm and other options was that they wanted many suppliers an a rich ecosystems. Mobile WiMax, even though it’s still an infant technology in many ways, has a lot of people pouring a lot of money in who will all be competing against one another. In the Qualcomm world, there’s Qualcomm and a few partners, but nothing like the robust multi-vendor jungle that WiMax appears to be growing.
I hate to sound like a press release: Motorola announced at the cell industry trade show that its interest in mobile WiMax isn’t just for laughs. They’re involved in 9 deployments and 25 trials of the technology worldwide, the latest of which is in Brazil with TVA.
Sprint Nextel announces more build-out plans, equipment details for its mobile WiMax “4G” network: The firm said it has chosen Samsung to build PC Cards that exchange data over the new network, which will launch in late 2007, and pass 100m people by the end of next year. The PC Cards will be either WiMax-only or support both the 3G EVDO network and the WiMax network. Two other firms will also supply gear: ZTE will make PC Cards and “modems,” which I take to mean external adapters, something like Clearwire’s fixed/nomadic receiver; and Zyxel, which will make just modems.
Sprint provided a long list of metro areas that it would cover in 2008 with the new service. News.com notes that Chicago and Baltimore/D.C. were already announced to receive early coverage at the end of this year. In early 2008, the company will roll out Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, otherwise known as AT&T’s key turf. The new announcement mentions more than a dozen additional metro areas, including Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and Seattle—but notably not San Francisco or New York.
Each of Sprint’s major network equipment partners will build out a distinct set of cities split among Motorola, Samsung, and Nokia. The News.com article features the details on which vendor builds which cities.
The first mention I’ve seen of WiMax-like devices in the 5.4 GHz stretch: This part of the 5 GHz band is one of two segments subject to rules that require unlicensed devices to back off on power and switch frequencies if radar use is detected. However, it’s a big hunk with 11 802.11a/n regular-width channels available. In WiMax, I’m not sure how 255 MHz of bandwidth translates into channels. There’s no approved profile for 5 GHz use of WiMax, but that doesn’t prevent using WiMax technology, certified in other bands, from deploying over 5 GHz.
The 5.4 GHz band doesn’t allow as much power output as the 5.8 GHz band, but the tradeoff is spectrum and utilization. There’s a lot less chance for interference in point-to-multipoint installations. Redline started taking orders last month for the unit, and said they have sold hundreds prior to their FCC certification.
Alvarion’s BreezeMax with 802.16e is ready for business: The company has been testing their latest version with customer around the world. BreezeMax is part of their 4Motion system, which supports Open WiMax, a way for vendors to interoperate, Alvarion says. BreezeMax works in 2.3, 2.5, and 3.5 GHz.
Fundamentals of WiMax: Understanding Broadband Wireless Networking released: This 500 page book covers the broad range of detail necessary to understand WiMax networking. The book covers all the bases, looking in terms at IEEE standards, channeling, OFDM, MIMO, and OFDMA, as well as a variety of networking architecture and planning issues. I haven’t seen the book, but it looks like a comprehensive guide to those planning to work with WiMax in any technical capacity. (Find the best price for the book here; it lists for $70 and Amazon has it at $44.)
Clearwire sells more stock than estimated at high end of range: The Craig McCaw firm brought in $600m by selling 24m shares; they trade under the ticker symbol CLWR. The firm raised the money to continue its very expensive rollout of pre- and soon actual-mobile WiMax service nationwide. Clearwire currently operates in 34 US markets and in Belgium and Ireland, and has 207,200 subscribers, mostly in the US. It raised $2b before the stock offering.
David Haskin writes about the potential for mobile WiMax to compete with and beat out 3G: Sprint appears to be the only carrier with the spectrum portfolio to make mobile WiMax work; Clearwire has admittedly a lot less spectrum, and as a new entrant, it’s unclear where in the heap they’ll wind up, this article suggests. If mobile WiMax’s speeds are to be believed, even the latest cell data revisions should considerably lag the 1 Mbps up and 2 to 4 Mbps down.
Haskin quotes Sprint being pretty optimistic—citing Ali Tabassi (once with Wi-Fi hotspot pioneer MobileStar) noting that the company is on track to launch two cities in 2007 and cover 100m people in 2008.