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Madison, Wisc., gets one of first full-scale, full-on WiMax deployments: TDS Telecom (1.2m voice lines, 171K DSL lines), a sister company with US Cellular (6m customers, 26 states), rolls out licensed mobile WiMax, albeit in a fixed configuration. The service covers 55,000 households and 10,000 businesses in Madison with service at up to 6 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. The combination of voice and data makes this a first in the U.S., although there are other early WiMax data networks deployed.
Residential service is $50/mo. for 2 Mbps symmetrical with phone service, $55 for 4 Mbps, and $60 for 6 Mbps. Dropping phone service cuts $5 per month, and there’s a $10/mo. bundle discount for the first three months. Business service starts at $129/mo. based on contract length. The WiMax receiver will have a two-hour continuously charged battery backup to preserve voice and data during brief power outages. No mention is made of setup costs or minimum residential service term commitments in the pricing document.
They have seven towers deployed, although the precise number in use is a little confusing: a map shows five running, two still in progress, while the press release mentions six towers at one point and seven at another. Each tower has a two-mile radius of coverage, they say, while their licensed are will allow them a total 35 mile radius around Madison. They’re using Alvarion 802.16e 4Motion equipment, but in a fixed not mobile configuration at launch; the hardware is upgradable later to seamless handoffs.
The company’s press release says that service installation requires a visit from a technician. This is typically the case with all new broadband. When I had DSL installed by then-US West in 1997, it meant a truckroll. Just a couple years later, self-install was the name of the game. The rule in telcos—that I read in a DSL textbook, of all places—is that services have to move to 95 percent self-install, 5 percent truckroll, at worst to become profitable and correctly priced offerings.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Sprint Nextel and Clearwire may agree to allow roaming by their customers across each other’s network: This could dramatically improve the chances for mobile WiMax to take off, as it would ensure that each firm’s customers didn’t hit huge service holes in areas in which their provider lacked licenses.
Sprint clearly retains a strong lead in the total amount of spectrum held—at one time, valued at 85 percent of the available licenses—while Clearwire has done a good job in extending its geographic reach. The Journal says the two firms might create a joint venture to pool assets, or might swap spectrum holdings in some markets.
Clearwire has only one technology in its arsenal. Sprint said at its 4G network launch that it would offer adapters for mobile users that would support both 3G EVDO and mobile WiMax. That gave them a fallback position for their business traveler market.
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).
Qualcomm has acquired the 802.16e portfolio from TeleCIS: Qualcomm says they wanted engineering resources (uh, people?), and would apply those resources towards a range of technology, including mobile WiMax if demand materializes.
The FCC required AT&T to sell off 2.5 GHz spectrum as part of its acquisition of BellSouth: Clearwire gets the prize spectrum, which probably also brings it into a closer relationship with AT&T. The deal is for $300m in cash. The 2.5 GHz spectrum licenses and leases were owned by BellSouth across its nine-state territory. The Seattle Times reports that Clearwire will boost its spectrum holdings with this purchase by 14.2 percent, and revised its estimate of population covered to 214m, up from about 200m just a few weeks ago. Carol Ellison at MuniWireless.com reminds us that Clearwire founder Craig McCaw sold AT&T a pile of cellular spectrum in 1994 for $13b, making his first fortune.
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).
Clearwire now passes 205m US, 117m European customers: In their revised filing today for an initial public offering of stock, the company reveals their current spectrum holding position. A month ago, they were coy, probably in anticipation of this filing. When I spoke to two heads of the firm for their Greater Seattle area, I asked if the 90m people passed figure was accurate, wondering about their competitive position relative to Sprint, which claims over 100m people (not households) will be offered their “4G” mobile WiMax service by the end of 2008. Co-CEO Ben Wolf said, “Spectrum footprint dramatically larger than what you referenced earlier,” meaning bigger than 90m people. (This comparison is tricky, because Sprint has discussed deployment footprint, not license holdings.)
On page 3 and 55 of the S1 filing, the company notes that they now own 11.5b MHz-POPs in the U.S. (2.5 GHz band) covering 205m people, and 5.1b MHz-POPs in Europe, covering 117m people. This excludes the recent German auction which adds coverage of 82.5m people, as the licenses were both large (21 MHz each for uplink and downlink) and national. (MHz-POPs are megahertz times population—spectrum bands in megahertz multiplied by local population.) They still have to complete deals that represent a portion of these holdings, they note.
The company also reveals some of their technical decisions on deployment on pages 55-56. They require at least six channels of 5 MHz each to launch service in an area. But they predict that mobile WiMax will provide ever increasing spectral efficiency—both as an evolution in the standard and over their current, proprietary, NextNet technology—resulting in launches that might involve fewer licenses. But they also note that “we could find that new technologies and subscriber usage patterns require us to have more spectrum available in our markets.”
Clearwire currently has deployed service to areas that comprise about 8.5m people in the U.S. and 1m in Europe. But they claim just 188,000 subscribers so far. [link via GigaOm]
It’s the whole kitchen sink: In Hong Kong, Intel’s point man on wireless demonstrated a MIMO (multiple-in, multiple-out) antenna based chipset with support for mobile WiMax (802.16-2005), Wi-Fi (the Draft N flavor that’s still in development), and HSDPA, the GSM version of 3G cell data. This was demonstrated as part of a laptop system.
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.)
The terminology kills me: Nortel says that a provider in the UK will use its equipment to deploy WiMax service in the 3.5 GHz band in the UK. But the licenses for that operator allow only fixed use. Rather than use the 802.16-2004 spec which offers fixed-only profiles, Nortel says its partner will use 802.16-2005, typically referred to as mobile WiMax—but which has fixed, nomadic, and mobile uses. (The band is owned by Pipex, which ZDNet reports said it wasn’t working with Nortel.)
There’s still debate over a dedicated band that would allow mobile WiMax, with 2.5 to 2.7 GHz under consideration. 3G operators naturally want 3G-related standards to be the only ones permissible in that band.
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.
Zyxel will offer a mobile WiMax CPE that also supports Wi-Fi and VoIP: These subscriber units are designed to receive a signal and then redistribute service via Wi-Fi without requiring two boxes. An indoor unit, the MAX-200H, has a four-port Ethernet switch; an outdoor version, the MAX-300, is ruggedized. The company also offers a mobile WiMax CPE with a SIP VoIP port and a PC Card. The product will ship later this year.
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 firm’s mobile WiMax chipset worked with Alcatel, Alvarion, Motorola, and Navini equipment at a plugfest: Beceem is working towards embedding its chips in client devices. Intel and Samsung are major investors in Beceem, which would likely lead to these chips being part of equipment delivered to Sprint customers for its mobile WiMax service next year. The chips are already used in South Korean WiBro networks.
As noted in earlier posts, Sprint and Clearwire own the best spectrum for mobile WiMax in the US: Having chosen, each of them, to deploy that technology, it’s quite unlikely that any other firm at present has the right combination of licenses to challenge them in other bands on a national scale. What is possible is that smaller licensed parties that are highly regional could leverage the equipment choices of Sprint and Clearwire that will turn WiMax into a much more highly commodified technology—coupled with Intel’s commitment to package WiMax adapters in future laptops—to deploy small networks.
I don’t know about smaller licenseholders in 2.5 GHz as a class, but there are enough licenses in bits and pieces that it’s possible a rural area might have a provider that opts for mobile WiMax in licensed 2.5 GHz as an alternative to broadband wireless (using current fixed WiMax technology). This is partly because there’s no certification profile yet and may never be a profile for using fixed WiMax in unlicensed spectrum, although there’s some interest in the 5.8 GHz band.
If 2.5 GHz mobile WiMax gear becomes cheap enough, then a small town without competitive Clearwire or Sprint service could find itself with a mobile WiMax provider, but the economics have to be awfully solid. Many of the arguments against Wi-Fi and broadband wireless stem from unlicensed spectrum. But the flaw with licensed spectrum is paying to buy or lease that license. The small town’s FCC licenses for 2.5 GHz might still be too expensive to purchase for a smaller firm even if larger companies aren’t offering service. Or a small firm might roll out service, only to see Clearwire or Sprint activate a network using licenses they hadn’t built out for yet.
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.
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.
EE Times reports that Motorola and Softbank will build a trial network in Tokyo: Motorola will provide the system and mobile WiMax handheld devices. Softbank has 26m fixed-line and mobile customers in Japan that they could offer new services to. It’s a small trial with five base stations and 25 mobile devcies. But it will also show off MIMO technology in the base stations.
Intel made their expected announcement of Rosedale II (not 2) today: The only unexpected news was the Roman numerals, it appears. Rosedale II will appear later this year, and sports mobile WiMax support, which is part of the 802.16-2005 specification, which differs from existing fixed WiMax (802.16-2004) in providing fixed, nomadic/portable, and mobile support. Rosedale II will appear in laptop cards first, and then later be integrated into the Centrino platform as a built-in function.
Intel apparently wants to position mobile WiMax firmly against Qualcomm technologies, such as HSUPA and HSDPA (high-speed uplink/downlink packet access), which is part of the GSM evolution. Intel maintains that the patent portfolio is more widely spread for WiMax, making royalties cheaper overall, and that mobile WiMax is more spectrally efficient. Spectrum issues worldwide need to be resolved to make mobile WiMax work outside of limited markets, however.
Important to note is that there are no substantial mobile WiMax network deployments to speak of, although trials are happening all over. The existence of these Rosedale II chips will provide the impetus for more testing and firm product deadlines, as well as an ultimate certification roadmap. I’ll be talking to Monica Paolini, an expert on WiMax, during a podcast tomorrow.
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.
Craig McCaw’s broadband wireless firm Clearwire raises $600m from Intel Capital, $300m from others: The latest revolutionary wireless firm founded by McCaw aims to deploy mobile broadband wireless worldwide using mobile WiMax (part of 802.16e-2005). Part of the money comes from Motorola purchasing Clearwire’s NextNet equipment subsidiary, which has been manufacturing and prototyping gear for Clearwire’s network, starting with customer premises equipment (CPE), or the fixed receivers plugged in at homes.
Clearwire owns the second-largest portfolio of spectrum in the desirable 2.5 GHz band in the U.S.; Sprint Nextel is the biggest holder. This is a great band into which to deploy mobile WiMax because of the geographic coverage—Clearwire says that they can reach 90m residents with current licenses—and the channelization, which is wide enough to allow sufficient bandwidth for real mobile applications, including video. (While BellSouth owns a chunk in 2.5 GHz, their biggest holdings are in 2.3 GHz. They are already looking at equipment that would offer WiMax or WiMax-like services in both bands. This spectrum is part of AT&T-formerly-SBC’s desire to purchase BellSouth, which would also give AT&T 100-percent ownership of Cingular, and allow more combined offerings there across DSL, cell data/3G, and WiMax.)
Intel has had a chicken-and-egg problem with its backing of WiMax, particularly the mobile and portable/nomadic form, in that they need networks to drive interest in the chips they plan to include in their laptop reference designs. By investing this heavily in Clearwire, they’ve basically guaranteed that a network will be built. This also seeds more interest in competing networks, and puts the cellular operators on notice that Intel is not their partner, if they ever harbored such a suspicion. In fact, Clearwire could offer competitive voice services over their network using handsets with mobile WiMax built in.
Intel is slated to ship Rosedale 2 chips by the end of the year, according to Light Reading, which will offer both older fixed (802.16-2004) and newer fixed/portable/mobile (802.16-2005) support. They’ll also make Ofer-R available for Wi-Fi and WiMax support in portable and handheld devices.
Way back at the Centrino introduction, Intel told me that future Centrino wireless chipsets would incorporate Wi-Fi and cellular data standards. That never happened. Instead, Intel discovered the wonders of a newly competitive marketplace that they thought could evolve worldwide in which they could have a stake and a say in its operation and standards development. Intel has been a big force in WiMax from many angles, this being just the latest.
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 company has built compact base stations and portable terminals: The focus is on mobile WiMax, part of 802.16-2005, although no specific profiles (spectrum plus encoding) are mentioned here. The company says their products are designed to cover much smaller areas at lower costs as an alternative ot higher-powered but less appropriate base stations.
Navini ships Ripwave for 2.3 GHz: The company says this band will be used for personal communications worldwide. In the US, no one company owns more than 10 MHz of the 30 MHz that’s allotted. This requires some of the smallest profiles for 802.16-2005 (fixed/portable/mobile) WiMax. They’re aiming this at the mobile sgement.
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 WiMax Community (WMC) will try to harmonize WiBro, 802.16-2005: The latter standard includes fixed, nomadic, and mobile WiMax, like WiBro’s key focus (but not sole ability) appears to be mobility. WiBro equipment is already available, and there’s service in South Korea. It has quite a lot in common with mobile aspects of WiMax, and thus there’s been interest in having one standard, not two.
Twenty-two telecom firms from 16 countries have signed a memo to create the group within six months, including Covad in the U.S. The firms seem to include both competitive and incumbent providers, such as PCCW in Hong Kong (an early U.S. Wi-Fi service investor, by the way) and NTT Broadband in Japan.
I’ve exchanged some email with the PR person representing Covad, and they expect more information to be forthcoming.
Qualcomm has signed with Soma the first licensing deal for its portfolio of what it claims are patents covering WiMax technology: My good friend and colleague Nancy Gohring writes for IDG News Service that Qualcomm acquired these patents as part of its purchase of Flarion Technologies. Flarion has pursued broadband wireless via a standard developing in 802.20 (mobile broadband wireless access), while WiMax emerged out of the 802.16 working group (broadband wireless access). Mobility was inserted into WiMax via 802.16e (now 802.16-2005), which covers fixed, nomadic/portable, and mobile broadband.
Qualcomm wouldn’t comment for the story, but analysts expect this unnecessary public announcement was a shot across the bow to signal their intent. Alvarion says in this report that they and other industry leaders believe Qualcomm’s patents aren’t relevant to WiMax.
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.