Emerging wireless standards offer alternative to T-1

According to information released by Allied Business Intelligence (ABI) Research last week, combined revenues on equipment for two new wireless standards will exceed US$1.5 billion in 2008. However, according to one analyst with the firm, North Americans may not even notice that there are new standards on the block.

The primary version of the fixed wireless standard called World Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX), otherwise known as IEEE 802.16a, will begin shipping at the end of 2003 or early 2004. The other mobile wireless standard, 802.20, won’t be made available in North America until 2006. WiMAX can be used as an alternative to traditional T-1 technology – a point-to-point digital circuit provided by telephone companies – or as a digital subscriber line (DSL) substitution for broadband connection to the Internet, according to Edward Rerisi, a research director at Oyster Bay, N.Y.-based ABI.

Eventually, WiMAX will introduce an amendment to the 802.16 specification, which will provide for portability, Rerisi said.

“[This means that] if you have a construction site or some other temporary work set up, you can bring the wireless modem with you and you can have broadband connectivity remotely.”

Once 802.20 is introduced, users will have access to high-speed mobility as well as full switching and mobility from cell to cell, Rerisi said adding that 802.20 “will enable workers to get ultra high-speed access to their corporate network, to their enterprise and to the Internet.”

Because of the late release date of 802.20, the majority of the US$1.5-billion revenues cited by ABI will be made up of sales from WiMAX, he explained.

Rerisi said that within North America, where there is already a large infrastructure deployed for enterprises, there isn’t much need for the new standards.

“You have T-1 connections, you have pretty robust DSL and cable networks to support businesses. In North America our basic assumption is that this technology will be used mainly for areas where there is no DSL or cable network.”

He added that in North America, “companies are more likely to go with a telephone company or some other T-1 provider [for its broadband solutions] just because that’s what everyone does. Everyone is familiar with the technology, it’s relatively standardized [and] you can deploy them relatively quickly.”

Rerisi pointed out one good reason to switch over to the new standard is that companies planning to offer the WiMAX solution once it is available will be doing so for less than half the cost of what telephone companies will be offering T-1 services for.

Intel Corp. along with Alvarion Ltd., providers of broadband wireless access equipment, announced in July intentions to develop silicon products based on the 802.16a standard to provide a broadband wireless access alternative to existing last mile methods including T-1.

Since being approved in January, 46 communications equipment companies have joined the non-profit WiMAX Forum – a group that promotes deployment of broadband access wireless networks by using a global standard and certifying interoperability of products and technologies – including two Montreal-based companies.

Wavesat Wireless Inc., a semiconductor company, and SR Telecom Inc., a provider of fixed wireless access, both joined the forum in June to help hasten the certification and adoption of the IEEE 802.16a standard, according to the companies.

ABI Research can be found online at www.abiresearch.com. Additional information regarding IEEE standards can be found online at www.ieee.org.