Motorola launches Toronto WiMAX trial

In June, WiMAX trials were announced for Hamilton, Ont., with Alcatel-Lucent providing the gear, Primus acting as the carrier, and Mipps Inc. holding the spectrum concession. Now Motorola has officially jumped into the fray. During WiMAX World USA in Chicago, Motorola announced it is working with Primus and Mipps on trials of WiMAX IEEE 802.16e-2005 in Toronto.

Tom Mitoraj, director of Motorola’s WiMAX business development networks, places this within the context of Motorola’s global strategy.

“It is really important for us to build a global ecosystem,” he says. “There is a lot of activity in Latin America, lots in the U.S., and Canada is an important part of building that continent-wide footprint.”

The trial uses Motorola’s wi4 WiMAX solution. In-field experience and data will then help Primus and Mipps as they evaluate WiMAX technology for planned future deployments.

And why is the Motorola trial launch coming four months after Alcatel-Lucent’s?

“We’ve been working almost as long with Motorola as with Alcatel-Lucent,” says Ted Chislett, Primus president and chief operating officer, “but it’s taken a bit longer for us to get the equipment from Motorola.”

Alcatel-Lucent, of course, is still experiencing merger pains: revenue is flatlining and jobs are being cut around the world. Reuters recently reported that the board has demanded that chief executive Patricia Russo come up with an emergency restructuring plan. This turmoil, however, is unlikely to affect equipment delivery in the near term.

And on the Motorola side of things, Chislett expects that things will ramp up quickly.

“We hope to have the trial largely completed by the end of this year,” says Chislett. “We want to be rolling out service by Q1 (of 2008).”

Chislett is sanguine about the relative merits of Motorola and Alcatel-Lucent.

“We believe in a dual-vendor strategy. We don’t want to be at the mercy of one supplier. The thing about WiMAX is that it’s a standard, so as things become more mature we can use equipment from either one. It’s really just to give us choice.”

From Motorola’s perspective, the Primus relationship is interesting because it follows on a global trend wherein smaller players are using WiMAX to compete with more established telecom providers.

“You see this in every country,” Mitoraj says. “This is part of the mix, part of the promise of WiMAX.”

He’s also quick to point out that WiMAX World in Chicago provided a showcase for recent developments in Motorola’s wi4 WiMAX solution. A demo of WiMAX IEEE 802.16e along the Chicago River showed that WiMAX could be truly mobile. Less flashy but equally important were presentations covering the cost and integration side of the technology.

“One of the highest cost items for operating expenditure is backhaul,” says Mitoraj. “We’ve developed a line of wireless backhaul solutions that allow small carriers to put in their own backhaul and pay it off in a year. Next is integration: we have Wi-Fi integration, and WiMAX that can fall back on 2G and 3G cellular.”

The regulations in Canada are a little bizarre, in that Mipps’ 3.5 GHz licensed spectrum is for fixed mobile, but by the end of 2008 laptops with WiMAX PCMCIA cards will be replaced by dual mode handsets. In effect, in a few years WiMAX will be competing in the mobile market. No one wants to talk about licensing anomalies, but the technology speaks for itself.

“The last piece of show in Chicago was the Motorola chipset,” says Mitoraj. “This is technology that fits in the palm of your hand, and this is the reason that we’re upbeat about the importance of roaming.”

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