U.S., Russia in WiMAX race

Though it may not have the same heft as the Space Race once did, the United States and Russia are locked in a battle to see which country will be the first to have WiMAX service in its national capital.

Russian ISP Comstar United Telesystems announced this week it will deploy more than 160 of Nortel‘s mobile WiMAX base stations throughout the Russian capital of Moscow, with the goal of having the full network deployed by year-end.

In the United States, meanwhile, telco Sprint Nextel is scheduled to officially launch the first stateside commercial WiMAX network in Baltimore next month, with plans to launch WiMAX commercially in Washington, D.C., and Chicago later in the year.

The centerpiece of Comstar’s Moscow network will be Nortel’s WiMAX BTS 5020 base station, which is responsible for communicating with and transmitting data to subscriber stations in homes and businesses.

Comstar also plans to deploy such Nortel equipment as the Access Services Network Gateway 5100, USB adapters, business and operational support system platforms, and indoor and outdoor gateways.

“In Moscow, we see the great popularity of the Internet, and people now expect to be connected everywhere at every time,” says Alexander Gorbunov, Comstar’s vice president for strategic development. “And we can provide that for them in a very efficient way because we can provide both fixed and wireless access.”

Moscow’s WiMAX network will operate on the 2.5GHz-to-2.7GHz frequency band, and will cost an estimated US$20 million to build. As the largest city in Russia, Moscow has a population of more than 10 million people, and an estimated 5.7 million Internet users.

In addition to working on the Moscow WiMAX network, Comstar recently completed building the first-ever WiMAX network in Armenia with equipment provided by U.S. company Airspan Networks. That network will operate on the 3.6GHz-to-3.8GHz frequency band.