Mobile WiMAX on the way

The organization responsible for certifying mobile WiMAX equipment interoperability says there will be no more delays in the approval process, which is at least six months behind schedule.

Dr. Mohammad Shakouri, vice-president of marketing of the WiMAX Forum, said certification of the first group of products using the 802.16e-2005 standard began Dec. 17 and should be given the stamp of approval soon.

The Forum, made up of communications equipment manufacturers and carriers from around the world, is responsible for interoperability testing of gear after the standard has been set by the IEEE.

“We feel comfortable that during the first half of the year we will have multiple vendors taking the certification process,” he said in an interview. “From our perspective progress is very good.” It has better be, warns Gartner analyst Phillip Redman, because any more delays will give an edge to competing mobile broadband technologies such as WCDMA, HSDPA and HSUPA.

In a research note issued last month Redman cautioned service providers planning to deploy mobile WiMAX to beware of investing in pre-certified equipment. The testing that began in December is of so-called Wave 1 equipment, which will be used in Korea. Testing of Wave 2 gear, which include MIMO technology and favoured by North American operators, started later.

Redman was critical in an interview of the Forum’s communications to the industry on its progress, which Shakouri acknowledged could have been better. Regular updates on the stages will generate loyalty and give operators the ability to pick a set of equipment and applications providers, he said.

The Forum is offering so-called plugfests where impatient manufacturers can demonstrate interoperability to potential customers, but, Redman noted, these don’t test performace perameters such as jitter, latency or throughput. Gartner doesn’t expect a competitive market of 802.16e-2005-certified products to exist until the middle of next year, assuming there are no test delays – “which is a risky assumption,” wrote Redman.

One equipment manufacturer not worried is Nortel Networks. Regina Moldovan, the company’s senior manager of WiMAX product marketing, dismissed Gartner’s concerns about certification delays. “I don’t see the (vendor) frustration or the delays they’re talking about,” she said.

After the IEEE approved the 802.16e-2005 standard and pre-certified equipment began appearing there was only a handful of deployments last year, she said, suggesting the industry isn’t in a rush. She expects testing on the company’s BTS 5000 family to be completed in the first half of the year and products available for sale in the third quarter.

Moldavan also said the greatest interest in the technology is not in North America, where wireless broadband is easily available, but in other parts of the world.

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