Mobile WiMax lifts off

Mobile WiMax, hyped for years by Intel Corp. and other vendors, has turned a corner toward reality, according to industry observers. Mobile technology is outpacing the licensed wireless broadband market overall, and gear based on the emerging IEEE 802.16e mobile WiMax standard is leading the way, Sky Light Research said this month.

Unit shipments of network equipment and end-user devices for mobile broadband data grew 117 per cent in 2006 from the previous year, according to Sky Light, in Scottsdale, Ariz. Products built to the IEEE 802.16e standard lead in growth even though the WiMax Forum industry group hasn’t started certifying that the mobile products work together, said analyst Donna Carlson. WiMax Forum certification is set to begin in the middle of this year.

Sky Light’s report also included TD-CDMA (Time Division-Code Division Multiple Access), IEEE 802.20 and proprietary products using OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing). It did not include advanced 3G (third-generation) mobile systems because they are voice-based, Carlson said.

The entire wireless broadband market is fairly small, with about 26,000 base stations and about 1.5 million units of customer equipment shipped last year. Base station units overall were up 57 per cent and customer gear up 88 per cent. Mobile WiMax is just gaining momentum, Carlson said.

Intel’s backing has given WiMax a leg up, and Sprint Nextel Corp., made a big difference when it announced last year it will deploy mobile WiMax across the country for commercial service starting next year, Carlson said.

“It helped to sway carriers and open dialogues that were pretty much on hold for a while,” Carlson said. 079508

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