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Even though you can’t use a mobile WiMax network in the U.S. today, analysts are concerned about the lack of hardware: The first production networks are slated to launch in weeks and months, and the Associated Press says only a CPE (home adapter) from Zyxel and a PC Card from ZTE are available. Motorola told me some weeks ago their CPEs would be available in small quantities at launch, moving to mass production during 2008; I’m not sure why they didn’t ramp up in preparation, and they’re not mentioned in this article.
A few laptops and tablet PCs will include WiMax, including the Asus Eee ($1000, 2nd half 2008), OQO (no date or price), and a Nokia tablet (sometime in 2008, no price).
Given the small initial audience that will subscribe, and the newness of the technology, it’s not strange to have so few items, but I would have thought Sprint would have ensured a few CPE models were ready. This article may understate what will actually be available.
Sprint’s strategy is to allow consumers to buy any compatible device and then pay a fee to use it on the network. Prices haven’t yet been set for network service.
Nancy Gohring reports from the Consumer Electronics Show that Sprint maintains all is well in WiMax deployment: The firm said to a “small audience” at CES that they are right where they said they would be from a timing perspective. The company’s CTO, Barry West, said that the firm chose mobile WiMax over CDMA due to CDMA’s higher computational cost—and thus equipment cost—when handling larger swaths of spectrum. He also reaffirmed the network’s openness: any WiMax device a consumer buys will be allowed to run on the network.
A senior VP at Motorola noted that Motorola is involved in 60 WiMax trials worldwide, and Intel’s WiMax lead also said that “WiMax is bigger than Sprint.” True, but Sprint and Clearwire have the most scale committed anywhere in the world, and most of the rest of the world is involved in trials, not committed deployments. If they can’t build it here, they may not be able to build it anywhere, and the fortunes of several companies tumble alongside.
Sprint Nextel will light up mobile WiMax in Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., initially limited to company employees for testing: Within a few days, the network will go live in the downtowns of those three cities, and then extend outwards based on where high usage is already found for cell data networks. Customer trial start in first quarter 2008, and full commercial services in the second quarter. This is an important milestone given other uncertainties about Sprint’s future.
The Wall Street Journal reports the deal for a joint mobile WiMax network is off between Sprint Nextel, Clearwire: That doesn’t mean either company is abandoning plans, nor that the two won’t forge a new deal. But with the departure of Sprint’s head due to a lack of confidence in his initiatives, it’s hard to see how an interim CEO could sign off on something that might last for years or even decades.
The deal between the two firms was for them to use complementary spectrum holdings and carry out spectrum swaps to create nonoverlapping network buildouts that would cover the whole country. Sprint would also allow Clearwire to resell its 3G EVDO network, a critical stage in building a roaming business audience. The complementary buildout would prevent double building, and provide the full set of frequencies in each market needed to ensure the highest data rates.
The Journal reports that some of Clearwire’s partners—Intel, Motorola, and Samsung—might “try to inject financing into Clearwire” to keep the WiMax network buildout on track. Intel and Motorola previously put in hundreds of millions.
Sounds like a former mantra: The Xohm service will be resold by both Clearwire and Sprint, pending regulatory and other approval. The Seattle Times says that the branding will likely appear as “Xohm from Sprint” and “Clearwire, powered by Xohm.” Clearwire will continue to sell under its own name internationally. Sprint announced the name at an investor and press event, where they also stated that WiMax service will reach 100m people by the end of 2008, with Clearwire building out service for 30m of that 100m. In 2010, Sprint expects $2.5b in revenue from WiMax.
They’ll spend $2.5b through 2008 on building the network, and an equal amount to add just 25m more people by 2010. It’s clear that there is low-hanging fruit as it’s unclear why Sprint would budget the same sum to cover such disparate numbers of people. I checked several news sources, and they all appear to back each other up on the dollar figure and population covered.
Horizon Wi-Com may be the first out of the gate due to more modest ambitions than Clearwire, Sprint Nextel: The firm has a 2.3 GHz spectrum portfolio that they told InformationWeek has allowed them to set up networks with Navini equipment in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Richmond, and Cincinnati. Philadelphia is the only one of those cities with a citywide Wi-Fi rollout underway. Cincinnati has a smaller community-driven effort in place.
The company claims they’ll cover 70m people (POPs being defined incorrectly in the article). Pricing hasn’t been announced; a commercial rollout is three months away. They plan to clean Wi-Fi’s clock. Interestingly, the 2.3 GHz licenses were purchased from Verizon, InformationWeek reports.
The cities in question could likely see service also from Clearwire and Sprint Nextel in the 2.5 GHz band. Both firms claim to have licenses covering over 200m people, which likely includes these cities. So residents of some towns could see Wi-Fi, three competing mobile WiMax offerings, and three or four competing 3G cell networks (depending on when T-Mobile launches service).
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.
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.
Sprint Nextel has chosen Motorola to install mobile WiMax across Chicago: Motorola will build out at least 1,000 sites around Chicago. It’s odd to see such a specific announcement given the national scope of Sprint’s build out. The network will start service in late 2007, but this press release describes a commercial launch as beginning in 2008.
As rumored earlier, Nokia will be one of Sprint’s three equipment vendors for its $3b WiMax deployment: GigaOm reports that while Nokia, Samsung, and Motorola will all supply infrastructure and end-user equipment, the division of that $3b budget is unknown.
Sprint Nextel is reportedly close to adding Nokia as an equipment partner for its Mobile WiMax network: The cellular operator already has deals in place with Motorola and Samsung. Nokia could supply networking hardware and handsets for the new network. The announcement could take place as early as next week, The Wall Street Journal reports. Nokia created a joint venture focused on networking equipment with Siemens earlier in 2006.
Nortel scores two wins: The company will work with the government of Japan to test mobile WiMax systems in the northern Tohoku region. The area has limited broadband access.
Nortel will also be building out mobile WiMax in Yilan, a northeast county of Taiwan, working with Chunghwa Telecom.
In separate, unrelated announcements, major WiMax players unveil their plans: Fujitsu says that they now have a strategy for the entire component foodchain of mobile WiMax, including not just chips and integration into devices, but deploying services and building backhaul infrastructure. As with many worldwide technology firms, their service division can deliver huge revenues by integrating their products for customers who need comprehensive deployments. Their new lineup include two base station models, both of which conform to 802.15-2005 and the mobile WiMax profile. The press release is heavy on positioning, but their plan is significant for the global mobile WiMax market. Fujitsu didn’t mention supported frequencies.
Aperto Networks, meanwhile, says that they have adapted their PacketMax architecture to handle mobile WiMax through insertion of a mobile WiMax “blade” (modular board) into a PacketMax 5000 base station. Their systems include management software for combined fixed and mobile (802.15-2004 and -2005) networks, base stations, and customer premises equipment (CPE) units. The CPEs seem to have the unique ability to operate in fixed (-2004) and mobile (-2005) modes—either optimally for one or the other. The press release is ambiguous on whether the CPE can receive in both modes at the same time.
Airspan Networks announced its mobile WiMax 3.4-3.6 GHz FDD, 3.6 GHz TDD, and 4.9 GHz TDD products. They’ll add 3.3 GHz, 3.4 GHz, and 3.5 GHz TDD in the “near future,” and will offer 2.5 GHz support in the second half of 2007—timed to Sprint Nextel’s major mobile WiMax push in that band (Airspan doesn’t state that last part).
The broadband wireless firm Alvarion will offer two products for mobile WiMax in 2.3 and 2.5 GHz bands this fall: The two bands appear to be the prime contenders for roll out in the US, with Sprint, BellSouth, and Clearwire having significant licenses in those bands. (BellSouth and AT&T may be required to sell their 2.3/2.5 GHz licenses to complete a merger, which could open up even more possibility for those bands.)
Alvarion’s gear selected by Netia: The gear, using the 3.6 to 3.8 GHz extension to their BreezeMax platform—frequencies I haven’t heard of in use for this elsewhere—will cover provide WiMax in 20 cities by the end of August; they acquired a national license for this spectrum.
Sprint Nextel confirms in news conference today they’ll be going with mobile WiMax: This decision has massive repercussions across several multi-billion dollar industries, including chipmaking, adapter manufacturer, consumer mobile, business mobile, and fixed broadband. Sprint had been evaluating several competing technologies while rolling out 3G EVDO service aggressively—first behind Verizon and then catching up.
Sprint and Nextel merged their 2.5 GHz license portfolio, which was one of a few key reasons for their merger, and in the news conference today, they said they could reach 85 percent of the population across 200 major markets in the US with those licenses—about 100m people. They’ll roll out service starting in late 2007, and moving into full deployment in 2008. They’re dubbing this 4G broadband.
What’s interesting about their decision is that they chose mobile WiMax (really 802.16-2005, which includes fixed service, too) not because it was the perfect technology and others failed to live up to promises, but rather because it’s available for development now, it’s already deployed in a similar form in South Korea and is in wide trials, and because there are many vendors already standing behind it. (To learn more about mobile WiMax, listen to this podcast I recorded with WiMax expert and consultant to the WiMax Forum, Monica Paolini.)
Intel, Samsung, and Motorola will work together to provide the equipment and expertise to build out the national network and the chipsets that will drive devices. Further, Samsung and Motorola will build multimode devices for Sprint that will allow switching between 3G (EVDO) and 4G (Mobile WiMax) networks.
Clearwire, which has licenses that allow them to pass about 90m people in the US, will now face strong competition on timetable and devices. Clearwire’s licenses tend to cover smaller markets, which are often underserved with broadband of all kinds. The sale of NextNet to Motorola will now allow Motorola to manufacture gear for Sprint, which seemed to be one of the reasons for NextNet to be sold off—it put money in Clearwire’s pocket while allowing the division to be independent of them.
Intel will also be in the position of providing most recently $600m to Clearwire and yet be a key supplier of equipment know-how to a key competitor. On the other hand, Intel’s goal has been to develop the market, and the more competition potentially the more likelihood of adoption and the more chips sold. Samsung has already been selling a variant on mobile WiMax, called WiBro, in South Korea, and there’s a lot of ongoing work to align WiBro and mobile WiMax into a single technology profile.
Today’s announcement vindicates a multi-year effort on Intel’s part to promote mobile WiMax as an evolutionary next step to cellular networks with Qualcomm as their key rival in this matter. This doesn’t edge Qualcomm out entirely, as I could see handheld and laptops having Wi-Fi, 3G, and 4G built in for the various purposes that each technology is best. Coverage will remain an issue with 4G, where 3G could eventually cover 95% of the US population and 4G may be limited in some areas or have a single provider across large territories, especially in less populated areas.
In today’s news conference, Barry West, the president of their new 4G Mobile Broadband division, and CTO for Sprint Nextel, said quite bluntly that they liked Qualcomm’s Flarion technology and IP Wireless’s approach just fine, but both had problems with immediate rollouts. They tried other cell standards, too.
Flarion supports only FDD (frequency division duplexing) at present and they don’t like the current maximum band limit, which I couldn’t hear clearly on the call, but I believe is 1.25 MHz in some combinations or 5 MHz. This conforms to CDMA2000 1x divisions and they work within existing cell banding. West said he was sure Qualcomm could meet their needs, but they weren’t there right now. (West said he prefer TDD (time division duplexing) with their bands, which means allocating space for uplink or downlink as needed using timing instructions rather than allocating frequencies on a fixed basis, regardless of traffic, for up- and downlink.)
IPWireless tested out fine for Sprint, but they had no “ecosystem,” a word used many times in the call. HSDPA (high-speed packet download access) was interesting, but a big switch for them being a GSM evolution. And 3G LTE (long-term evolution) is truly a long-term technology, with West estimating a time to market of 2010 to 2012. LTE (also called Super 3G) could achieve 100 Mbps downstream and extremely low latency.
Mobile WiMax becomes the best choice, in West’s evaluation, because they can start working today to build a network by year’s end with a high degree of reliance that equipment will be ready and it will work as expected. The Intel, Samsung, and Motorola partnerships provide them enough diversity in this first rollout to switch trains if one company falls behind in one area.
Sprint will invest $1b in 2007 and $1.5b to $2b in 2008 on this network.
Rosedale 2 will support 802.16-2004 and -2005: That means both flavors of fixed WiMax plus the portable and mobile support in the -2005 standard. Rosedale 2 isn’t sized for laptops, but rather for CPEs, modems, and possibly picocell base stations. By year’s end, Intel will release Ofer-R with Wi-Fi and WiMax in a single package. They want to push WiMax modems below $50.
The largest planned 802.16-2005 (formerly 16e) development will cover 193 sites in Pakistan by September: Wateen Telecom will increase sites that rely on the mobility part of this WiMax standard to 600 by June 2007. The carrier will handle voice, broadband, and private IP services over the network. The early nature of this project is emphasized in this article, which notes that the general manager of Wateen said to Motorola at the end of a presentation at Wimax World Europe last week outlining the scope of the project, “Please don’t let me down.”
The name of the service, the headline on this article, tells the whole story: AOL may be be part of a giant conglomerate that owns a cable service, which gives it an edge in having alternative methods to dial-up by which to offer Internet service and its own mash-up of email, newsgroups, and news sites to consumers. However, Roadrunner has a finite reach, and just as EarthLink must diversify into the fourth approach (after phone, cable, and powerline), so, too, must AOL.
The Clearwire-powered AOL broadband wireless offering will launch in Dayton Beach and Jacksonville, Florida, and Stockton and Modesto in California, The Seattle Times reports. This is a reseller arrangement rather than new wireless rollouts. The AOL/Clearwire package will cost as little as $25.90, the same as AOL’s unlimited dial-up service.
Clearwire’s speed isn’t up to DSL/cable rates, or even bidirectionally as fast as most of the paid metro-scale Wi-Fi plans or deployments. But it’s still a high multiple of dial-up, and it frees up a phone line or allows a second line to be cancelled.
PT. Citra Sari Makmur (CSM) will upgrade gear, expand offerings using Aperto equipment: CSM already has PacketWAVE (pre-WiMax) equipment in place for a variety of offerings, and will upgrade and extend those deployments with the WiMax-certified PacketMAX products. The first wave of certification covers only a handful of characteristics of base stations, but it’s already being boosted as a selling point.
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.
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.
Intel says it intends to test WiMax in Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines; South Korea already way ahead: Intel will start its trials by the end of 2005 with the intent to help providers roll out service within two to three years in the first three of those countries. South Korea is ahead of the pack with a commercial roll-out expected in the first half of 2006.
The two companies pooled their spectrum into Inukshuk Internet: The joint venture will spend Cdn$200 million over three years to build a network spanning 40 cities and 50 rural areas. They also hope to roam onto Clearwire’s network, and will use NextNet’s equipment, same as Clearwire, NextNet’s parent firm. Spectrum is question falls across 2.3, 2.5, and 3.5 GHz. No mention on price, speed, or ubiquity within served areas.
The U.S. firm has markets in the U.S, and has launched commercially in Dublin with Copenhagen to follow: Broadband penetration in Ireland is the staggeringly low rate of 3.3 percent. Clearwire’s service costs about the same as DSL, but doesn’t require the mandatory line charge that comes with DSL. The official launch of Clearwire in Ireland is mid-October, but the service can be ordered now.
The Copenhagen launch should be in the fourth quarter, with other cities to follow. Clearwire acquired a Danish firm with existing license holdings. Clearwire already operates wireless broadband services in Brussels.
SkyPilot has three announcements today: The company has, since its inception, focused on unlicensed bands using somewhat proprietary technology that’s similar to Wi-Fi but with tweaks to allow it to work in mesh and other configurations. They’ve been trying to solve the final mile problem well in advance of WiMax’s arrival and at a much lower price point than competitors.
Their announcements today signal their move into licensed and unlicensed WiMax using Fujitsu chips at some point in the future; development of hardware to use the 4.9 GHz US public and international broad use band; and their equipment will be used by MetroFi for $50,000 per square mile metropolitan deployments.
Each of these moves would be significant for a company that’s been in business several years without a major win. Technically, their products have always seemed very interesting and well developed to me. But because of their limited portfolio and no deployments, it was a hard sell.
Nortel announced it will release fixed and mobile WiMax products: They’ll work with Airspan on 3.5 GHz and 5.8 GHz fixed WiMax, and help Intel promote the overall idea of WiMax. They’ll have commercial versions available in early 2006 for fixed WiMax. On the mobile side, they’re developing WiMax and WiBro implementations, which they plan to put into trials in 2006 in North America.
Heidelberg, Germany is set to get a broadband wireless network starting next week: Details are thin here, but German readers may understand a bit more. An operator known as DBD is targeting towns without DSL. [link via VoIPAction]
Clearwire may have plans to buy 3.5 GHz licenses in every European country where the spectrum becomes available: The company, owned by Craig McCaw, is notoriously tight-lipped about its plans but an executive at Clearwire told Caroline Gabriel, research director at Rethink Research Associates in London, about the operator’s ambitions. Clearwire has backed away from a license tender in Austria due to restrictions on deploying portable services in the band, she said. But Gabriel believes Clearwire could still enter the Austrian market through an acquisition at a later date if the regulator loosens up.
Early last week Clearwire reportedly invested as much as 15 million Euros in Danske Telecom for a partnership to deploy broadband wireless in Denmark. The companies hope to launch networks in three cities including Copenhagen this year. Last year Clearwire reportedly won 3.5 GHz licenses covering Copenhagen.
Clearwire also owns licenses in Belgium and Gabriel expects that market to come next. At least one executive at another broadband wireless company in Ireland recently said that Clearwire has been quite active deploying equipment in Ireland and a launch might be expected this summer. Clearwire spokespeople in Ireland have not responded to requests for comment.
Some reports have Clearwire also owning a license in Bulgaria and Gabriel suggests that Clearwire has been active in Italy also.
Covad is likely to launch a broadband wireless service early next year: The operator, which was one of the early operator members of the WiMax Forum, has been trialing broadband wireless in San Jose and Oakland, Calif. It’s not offering details about where or with what equipment. This story seems to conclude that Covad is likely to target business customers, but I don’t see any specific indication that it plans to solely focus on business customers. Covad’s existing DSL service has a significant base in residential areas.
Covad is set to be one of the earliest significant operators to launch a WiMax-like offering, although a slew of other big operators are conducting trials so they may soon follow suit.
Hopefully some more details on this will emerge soon, but O2 has partnered with an ISP to jointly offer broadband wireless services in Germany: James Enck picked this up from a reader and it doesn’t look like it has yet to be more widely reported on. This is big news for WiMax because it marks a significant European mobile operator’s commercial entrance in the WiMax (or soon-to-be WiMax) space. O2 already has an offering in Germany where 3G customers pay a discounted rate in their homes for broadband wireless access, in an apparent jab at the fixed-line broadband players. O2 conducted a broadband wireless trial using Alvarion equipment in Ireland last year.
Austrian operator WiMax Telecom plans a commercial launch in September: The operator, the only 3.5 GHz licensee in Austria, is currently testing networks in some areas. By the end of the year it expects to have 60 base stations in place, initially targeting areas without much existing broadband followed by cities.
Arobase Telecom is building a broadband wireless network in Abidjan: Alvarion is supplying its BreezeMax platform for the network, which will serve large and small businesses. This is another example of how broadband wireless can be deployed cheaper and quicker than wireline technologies in areas that may lack much existing telecom infrastructure.
Wireless ISP U.S. Wireless said it is deploying Aperto’s pre-WiMax gear throughout its service area: U.S. Wireless has already deployed the gear in some markets but says it will do so throughout its 11-State territory. This kind of news is further evidence that these types of operators are chomping at the bit to get some new equipment. They’re willing to deploy now rather than wait for the official certified gear. This could also be partly due to the fact that some vendors are almost exclusively focusing on their WiMax equipment, leaving operators little choice if they want to upgrade or extend their networks.
Pacific Internet is planning to build a WiMax network in Singapore: The ISP has licenses in the 2.5 GHz band, an ideal frequency for launching a portable broadband wireless service. The 3G players in Singapore must be fuming over the fact that this ISP spent just US$1.2 million on the spectrum as compared to the US$60 million spent on 3G spectrum. This is the same issue that has 3G operators in Europe fighting to restrict use of the 2.5 GHz band, which is to be distributed in a few years, to 3G technologies only.
Pacific Internet was part of a trial launched last year in cooperation with MobileOne using broadband wireless gear from Soma. MobileOne also conducted trials of gear from IPWireless and ArrayComm. A couple months ago MobileOne said it would trial WiMax later in the year. Singapore presents a great opportunity for any mobile technology really because its relatively small size allows the potential to cover every inch. It has dense areas though, which presents its own challenges.