Receive new posts as email.
This site operates as an independent editorial operation. Advertising, sponsorships, and other non-editorial materials represent the opinions and messages of their respective origins, and not of the site operator or JiWire, Inc.
Entire site and all contents except otherwise noted © Copyright 2001-2006 by Glenn Fleishman. Some images ©2006 Jupiterimages Corporation. All rights reserved. Please contact us for reprint rights. Linking is, of course, free and encouraged.
C-motech will use Wavetech’s chips for an ExpressCard format WiMax adapter, but only for older, fixed networks: This is the first ExpressCard WiMax adapter I’m aware of, but it’s only compatible with the older 802.16-2004 protocol, also known as fixed WiMax, which requires point-to-multipoint transmitter focused on receiving locations. The utility could be to allow nomadic access within a covered area as an alternative to Wi-Fi, but I fail to see the real potential here.
The company says it’s the first to mash-up Wi-Fi, WiMax in a single platform: The company offers both 802.11b/g and 802.11a radios for Wi-Fi coupled with a fixed WiMax (802.16-2004) radio for backhaul. The WiMax radio, from the Tsunami product line, works in 3.3 to 3.6 GHz licensed and 5.1 to 5.8 GHz unlicensed spectrum. There’s also an Ethernet switch built in. The WiMax radio is certified as a standalone item, but the entire product needs new certification. The company says MeshMAX will be software upgradable to Mobile WIMax (802.16-2005).
Alvarion has added WiMax base stations that include Wi-Fi: The BreezeMax WI2 and BreezeAccess WI2 are certainly the leading ends of a trend to make fixed WiMax (licensed bands) and pre-WiMax (5 GHz band) a complement to Wi-Fi. This sort of platform will make a lot of sense in feeding hotspots in outdoor urban settings and in installations in which wire just isn’t available or affordable. Alvarion claims a reach of over 19 miles.
Clearwire launched its Seattle mobile WiMax-like service with a laser light show on the Space Needle: Tricia Duryee of The Seattle Times reminds us all that in May 2005, the national ISP based in Seattle, Speakeasy Networks, launched its fixed WiMax (pre-WiMax, really) with a climbing expedition on the exterior of the famous structure by company head Bruce Chatterly.
A year later, and the pre-WiMax is post-WiMax. Duryee reports that while the Speakeasy launch was hailed as an early win for fixed WiMax, and was apparently one of the largest of its kind in the US—other similar technology wasn’t quite as related to WiMax or used a somewhat different approach—it’s no longer in service. Speakeasy was pushing its service as an alternative to wireline T-1, with more flexibility, such as up to a total of 8 Mbps to play with, which could be configured as 6 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up; 3 Mbps service offerings that would be cheaper and simpler than two T-1s; and very short-term installations, like within a day or two of initiation. Sounds like it didn’t gain traction as an offering as DSL and cable firms starting rolling out 5 and 6 Mbps services, and even much faster ones that were not readily available with business-grade service agreements when Speakeasy was planning their offering.
Intel had put money into Speakeasy to promote its WiMax line, but fixed WiMax has dimmed for Intel while mobile WiMax has had its profile raised. Mobile WiMax is just an element of 802.16-2005, and the WiMax Forum will have fixed, nomadic, and mobile profiles. While fixed WiMax (usually meaning 802.16-2004) has dropped in price and is now apparently widely deployed, a lot of future fixed deployments are anticipated to be using the so-called mobile WiMax base stations.
(Clearwire’s rollout uses older NextNet technology that has similarities to mobile WiMax; the company has stated when it will move to mobile WiMax, but it’s an inevitable transition, likely when Motorola, which bought NextNet, Intel, and Samsung release a first real generation of US-focused mobile WiMax gear in fall 2007.)
Intel’s WiMax Connection 2250 will support mobile WiMax: The chip is released with a fixed WiMax/802.16-2004 profile, but the company says that it can be upgraded over-the-air with new firmware to add mobile/802.16-2005 support. The trick, of course, is the back-end radio which supports three bands worldwide (2.5 GHz, 3.5 GHz, 5.8 GHz), and has to handle the varying requirements of -2004 and -2005 coupled with the WiMax Forum profiles. It’s a little complicated, but Intel thinks it’s a winning strategy to promote current deployments and future upgrades.
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).
Freescale and Wavesat will work together to create a customer premises equipment (CPE) gateway for businesses and homes: The two firms combine reference design boards from Freescale with chips from Wavesat. Reference designs are licensed to so-called OEMs (original equipment manfacturers), which customize the products appearance and firmware, choose parameters, and job out the production, typically to electronics makers across Asia in Taiwan, Singapore, and China. The devices will first support 802.16-2004 fixed service, but be upgradable to 802.16-2005 for fixed and mobile purposes. That upgradability likely means a different chip rather than firmware. A note at the end mentions 3.5 GHz, but there’s otherwise no mention of spectrum.
In an interesting development, BellSouth will roll out more WiMax in several cities in the third quarter: The current equipment is pre-WiMax, offering 1.5 Mbps over 128 to 384 Kbps, but the future service should use full WiMax-grade equipment and provide 3 Mbps downstream, according to Multichannel News. They’re using WiMax to fill in uncovered urban and rural areas, rather than let this spots be cherrypicked by other providers. The deployments will be in Albany, Geor.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Greenville, Miss.; and Melbourne, Flor.
The article notes BellSouth is using its 2.3 GHz licenses except in Athens, Geor., where it lacks that spectrum and uses some of its much smaller 2.5 GHz holdings. They’re using Navini equipment now, and will test Alcatel’s 802.16-2005 gear in the full. But they don’t expect to see a full rollout of 802.16-2005 equipment until late 2007 or into 2008.
I’d also argue that BellSouth is deploying service so that when their licenses come up for renewal next year, they have some investment in the band.
Wavesat and TI will develop a reference design for 802.16-2004 fixed 5.8 GHz mini-PCI adapters: These adapters are used for built-in components of laptops, but in this case, it sounds like they’re destined to be part of more compact CPEs (customer premises devices), or the bridges that receive WiMax signals. The press release says that this will handled the TDD (time division duplexing) profile for 5.725 to 5.875 GHz, which is a worldwide unlicensed band, and one of the first major profiles to be deployed. The companies expect to ship the design by fourth quarter, with Wavesat acting as the releasing firm.
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 Polish company’s card will be distributed by the Canadian firm: The card uses Wavesat WiMax chipsets to offer a CPE function in a PCI Card. Whether this is a good or bad idea, it’s hard to tell. It will decrease the cost of goods, unless making a PCI Card turns out to be a higher cost item due to lower unit sales. No pictures appear available at Polonix or ENTE’s sites.
A customer premises equipment (CPE) device that doesn’t require a truck roll is the holy grail for every new networking technology: When DSL moved from mostly truck roll to mostly UPS delivery, the industry exhaled and started counting their money. (At least until price wars started in some cities.) Self-installation turns all kinds of services from marginal or niche into profitable and widespread.
The BreezeMax Si is designed for indoor deployment, the company says, and works with their existing WiMax gear. The 802.16-2004-based CPE (using chips from Intel) handles both FDD and TDD (frequency time division duplexing), and implicitly can work with the same 2 GHz to 6 GHz range of possible frequencies that their BreezeMax base stations can operate in. FDD requires dedicated frequencies for uplink and downlink, while TDD uses synchronization to allow dynamic asymmetric traffic flows. Both have their supporters.
The supports of FDD and TDD along with a wide frequency range is a critical feature for WiMax CPEs as there are so many potential profiles that combine a channel width, duplexing type, and spectrum band that having inflexible CPE would limit sales even in the U.S., much less internationally.
The unit comes with an integral 9 dBi antenna, and an external, window-mountable 12 dBi antenna.
Unstrung reports on what they term one of the most significant WiMax installations to date: The report says that Muskegon County will have WiMax-based broadband wireless service from Arialink Wireless. The company is financing part of the operation; state and federal grants are also involved. The base service is 3 Mbps for $18.99 per month, and the company will use Samsung’s early 802.16e equipment. The 802.16e standard incorporates fixed, nomadic (portable but fixed in use), and mobile WiMax, although there’s still a lot of work to be done to create a certified, interoperable version for general release.
The broadband firm will install base station on 16 towers along with 110 microcells on buildings and utility poles and use the 2.5 GHz band, which is largely owned by Sprint Nextel and Clearwire.
The article does contain the extraordinary statement: “Unlike other networks that vendors have called “pre-WiMax,” says Schreiber, the Muskegon system will be fully compliant with the new 802.16e standard.”
Pre-WiMax or WiMax-ready has typically referred to the 802.16-2004 standard (incorporating 802.16 through 802.16d) rather than 802.16e. And many of the 802.16-2004 compliant systems, including some that are now fully certified in the first wave of WiMax Forum testing, claimed full compliance with 802.16-2004.