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September 25, 2007

WiMax World: The skinny on where WiMax stands today

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 8:18 AM

CHICAGO -- I wrote an advance story Monday about WiMax World that gave a small update as to where the emerging wireless broadband technology stands.

But I didn't get into too many specifics because I thought it might bog down the story with too many technical details. I figured I would take a moment to do that now.

To get the skinny, I talked to Mo Shakouri, vice president of marketing at
the WiMax Forum, a trade association.

First, I characterized WiMax as an emerging technology because a standard for the technology was extablished only recently, and now companies in the field must go through a certification process to get their equipment deemed "true mobile WiMax." The geeky term for that is 802.16e.

So currently there is no mobile WiMax in the world today. Those that offer similar services, such as Kirkland-based Clearwire, are using proprietary equipment (probably from Motorola), or they're offering fixed WiMax, which comes under the name of 802.16d.

But that's going to change soon.

Shakouri said by the end of the year there will be five certification labsaround the world. The one in the U.S. will be in Virginia.

The labs are checking to see if everything works together. For instance, the base stations have to be able to interact with WiMax PC cards and handheld devices.

"We are on target for mobile certification for 2.3 GHz and 2.5 GHz by the end of this year and beginning of next year," he said. "We expect to get mobile equipment certified in the first half of 2008."

So why is it that Sprint Nextel says it will have its WiMax network up and running in select cities by the first of the year?

Shakouri explained there are two reasons. One: Over the past six to nine months, work has been conducted to take the risk out of the certification process. If a problem does arise, it's likely to be small. "Because of that, people have been more comfortable and are taking the risk," he said.

The second reason is that there is an urgency in deploying the technology.

"Normally you would have said, I will wait until the equipment is certified, but the demand is so high," Shakouri said. "The operator is taking the risk....They believe that there is such industry momentum."

He said the WiMax Forum has counted 270 operators deploying and testing equipment around the world, and 50-plus are talking about deployment.

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Tricia Duryee
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