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Motorola announced a bit of an increased focus on WiMax and a couple of new WiMax packages: I’m not totally sure that there’s anything actually new here. It could be just that Motorola is packaging its broadband wireless products into a complete offering for users. But it’s now offering what it calls the Moto Wi4 portfolio, which includes two lines. One targets developing countries, which are likely to continue using broadband wireless technologies. The other package is based on all-IP access. In the cellular world, Motorola was one of the first big vendors to really push the benefits of using an all-IP core and it looks like the company is extending that push into the broadband wireless realm.
Ericsson said it will sell Airspan’s line of WiMax products: Ericsson joined the WiMax Forum near the end of last year but I don’t think the company has made any significant announcements in the space. The vendor will be following the footsteps of many of its competitors in re-selling WiMax equipment developed by another company.
Broadband wireless vendor Redline launched its line of WiMax gear: Like the WiMax gear from many other vendors, the name of the new line is predictable—RedMax. The base stations and CPEs use Intel chips. Redline, Alvarion, and Airspan said in mid-March that they had privately begun to test interoperability of their products.
Navini announced a PC card for broadband wireless that operates in the 3.5 GHz band: While Navini doesn’t call it WiMax, presumably the card is aimed at supporting WiMax. Navini is a member of the WiMax Forum. Most of the first generation certified WiMax equipment won’t include PC cards. Instead, subscriber units will include external modems. Offering a PC card with the first generation product can give a vendor the edge over other suppliers but not all operators are interested in making a portable offering.
Irish Broadband plans to further extend its network: The operator already covers a number of cities in Ireland and with this recent announcement plans to reach “near nationwide coverage” by the end of this year. Irish Broadband uses both unlicensed and the licensed 3.5 GHz spectrum. In the licensed band, it is deploying Alvarion’s equipment that aims to be WiMax compliant.
If Irish Broadband can offer decent access prices, it stands to be targeting an ideal market. A recent report placed Ireland as 27th out of 30 in value for money for broadband access. In other words, only three other countries had higher prices for what you get. If Irish Broadband can slip in under that cost, it stands to do well.
The company also stands to benefit from self-installable CPEs. I was unable to subscribe to Irish Broadband in my apartment in Dublin because the building management wouldn’t allow an external antenna to be mounted on the building. I suspect my building is not unique in that rule.
Alvarion, Airspan and Redline say they’ve started testing interoperability among their base station and CPE products: This type of activity was expected prior to the official certification program conducted by the WiMax Forum, scheduled to start in July. The independent testing gives vendors a better chance of quickly getting through the official certification process.
Nortel, a WiMax Forum member, said it will develop mobile WiMax products with LG Electronics: Nortel has been a member of the forum for a while but hasn’t offered many details about its WiMax plans, until now. Like some other cellular vendors, Nortel seems to be skipping the fixed version of WiMax in favor of the next generation mobile version. Alcatel, which resells broadband wireless equipment from Alvarion, also recently said it is working on its own version of the mobile WiMax standard.
Nortel joins most of the other cellular equipment vendors in announcing a WiMax plan. Siemens also recently said it would develop its own WiMax solution. Lucent is reselling Alvarion gear and Motorola will upgrade Canopy to comply with WiMax. Nokia and Ericsson are members of the WiMax Forum but I don’t believe either has announced their own WiMax development initiatives or plans to resell equipment from an existing vendor.
Unstrung reports that Alcatel may be on the verge of signing a licensing agreement with IPWireless: Alcatel already buys and integrates IPWireless equipment. The move would fit with what some people see is a shift at IPWireless toward trying to earn most of its revenue from its intellectual property rather than equipment sales.
Alcatel seems to be pursuing a wide range of future wireless technologies. In addition to the standard cellular upgrades, it is also working on WiMax products, both through an OEM agreement with Alvarion and a development deal for 802.16e gear with Intel. A potential deal to license IPWireless’ gear may be Alcatel’s attempt to cover all the bases.
Airspan Networks is launching a line of products aiming to be WiMax compliant, including a self-installable customer unit: The company is claiming that this is the first self-installable WiMax product. Because the CPE is based on Intel’s “Rosedale” chip, it will interoperate with any WiMax-certified base station. That’s an important capability because even though interoperability is one of the main reasons to create a standard, many vendors have said that their first generation of WiMax CPEs will only operate with their base stations.
The self-installable component is also quite important because the expense of truck rolls required to install customer equipment has historically been blamed for failures in developing broadband wireless markets.
Airspan also says that these base stations will be upgradeable to the future mobile WiMax standard. I’ve been hearing that from some other vendors but I’m a bit dubious. The 802.16e standard is so far from completion that I would find it difficult to be able to ensure forward compatibility. But I may have to eat my words in a couple of years.
Alvarion said it is making a micro base station for its BreezeMax platform: These base stations are designed essentially to deliver less capacity because they serve areas that are sparsely populated. The base stations will operate in the 3.5 GHz band and are designed to be WiMax compliant.
In January, Cambridge Broadband introduced a pico-base station, also based on WiMax. The pico base stations are designed for areas with a dense user base. They cover a smaller area, thus allowing a smaller number of people to share the available bandwidth.
It is encouraging to see these different types of base stations hitting the market. Operators will have a range of products that they can use in order to build a network optimized to their users.
A very unconfirmed report suggests that Alcatel is thinking about opening a WiMax research center in India: India could be a significant market for WiMax given its size and relative underdevelopment of telecom. Alcatel recently announced a vague relationship with Intel whereby the two will work to speed the launch of WiMax networks.
It’s not quite clear yet how some of the cellular vendors will approach the WiMax market: Siemens recently said it would begin offering its own WiMax platform. Lucent and Alcatel will OEM Alvarion’s equipment. But other cellular vendors that have joined the WiMax Forum haven’t yet made announcements regarding their products, as Unstrung notes here. Peter Jarich of Current Analysis notes in the article that Siemens will have more to loose than Lucent and Alcatel if WiMax fails because it will have invested its own resources into developing the technology.
There’s a good chance we’ll see a lot of consolidation as it becomes clearer how WiMax will fare in the market. The cellular vendors who haven’t announced their strategies may also initially resell equipment made by companies such as Alvarion or Aperto. But once standardization kicks off and they get an indication of sales, if the going is good, they may start looking to buy the independent WiMax vendors. The interesting aspect of such consolidation is that some of the leading independent WiMax vendors may be fought after by the handful of cellular vendors that may be looking for a foothold in the market.
Siemens is offering SkyMax, radios and modems based on the fixed WiMax standard: The products will be available in the second half of this year. Siemens joins a growing list of vendors that have traditionally served the cellular world who are now offering products based on WiMax.
This description of this deal is vague enough that it raises the suspicion that it might become one of those agreements that amounts to nothing: Alcatel and Intel said they will work together to develop and market WiMax technology to operators. The companies say they’ll work together to try to speed up the delivering of WiMax solutions. It’s not clear what exactly the companies might do beyond the normal efforts that vendors are already undertaking to get WiMax products on the market. Alcatel also recently said it would buy equipment from Alvarion and sell it under its own label.
While some of this story is a bit of a roundup of recent announcements, there’s at least one quite succinct quote in it: Kevin Suitor, vice president at Redline Communications says this: “You can only sell a vision for so much time.” This is the problem facing vendors as they approach the market. They must do their best to sell the vision of WiMax, because they can’t actually sell certified WiMax equipment yet.
Apparently Redline has taken to touting its products as 802.16 compliant. That may be true of a slew of products on the market right now, but 802.16 compliance is a very different thing than WiMax certified. It sounds to me like another marketing angle that the vendors may take to show their allegiance to WiMax before they can actually sell certified gear.
Orthogon Systems is selling longer range, higher data rate radios based on the WiMax standard: Certified WiMax equipment isn’t even available yet and companies are already releasing tweaks to the platform that can help differentiate their products. Orthogon’s new product, which is based on the WiMax standard, can reach as far as 125 miles and deliver data rates up to 300 Mbps. Orthogon said the radios can be used to backhaul as many as 12 WiMax base stations, using just three WiMax channels. These kinds of radios make WiMax an even more attractive option for reaching remote areas.
Alvarion already has a reputation of being a (if not the) leader in developing WiMax products, but a deal announced today with Lucent gives it even more credibility: Lucent said it would integrate WiMax technology into its broadband product line by using Alvarion’s BreezeMax gear. It’s not totally clear what Lucent is after here when it says that it will deliver a converged solution that enables the seamless interoperability of WiMax, 3G, Wi-Fi, and landline networks. If Lucent is trying to promote a seamless end user offering that roams from 3G to Wi-Fi to WiMax, well, that’s a great idea but they’d be jumping the gun a bit.
I suspect that some of the language in the press release is designed to placate Lucent’s mobile operator customers. A Lucent executive is quoted as saying that WiMax complements mobile and landline networks—the comment seems aimed at ensuring the market that WiMax won’t steal market share from the mobile operators.
While the WiMax Forum has a long list of heavy hitter vendors as members, having Lucent actually marketing products is a great step in the right direction. Lucent has been producing carrier-grade equipment for a long time and its stamp of approval on WiMax could go a long way.
Aperto said it is supplying some gear to Iberbanda, the nationwide operator in Spain: Apparently Iberbanda uses equipment from a variety of vendors.
Aperto has come up with a nice term to describe its products—WiMax-class. It’s not bad. There isn’t an implication that the equipment is actually WiMax nor that the equipment is guaranteed to be upgradable to WiMax.