Nortel bullish on mobility

Nortel Networks Corp. is fast-tracking a range of Wi-Max products to make the most of what it believes will be a short-lived market in fixed Wi-Max communication.

The Ottawa-based company is looking beyond fixed Wi-Max broadband technology to enabling a mobile Wi-Max network that embraces a Korean version of wireless broadband, or Wi-Bro.

“We expect to deliver our first fixed Wi-Max products to market next year, but we anticipate the fixed Wi-Max market will disappear for us. The real target market for Nortel is mobile Wi-Max,” said Bruce Gustafson, director of Wi-Max marketing at Nortel Networks.

Wi-Bro is designed to send a 1Mbps signal to receivers moving at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per hour. Fixed Wi-Max can handle speeds of tens of megabits per second over a distance of 50km, to stationary receivers.

Nortel last month announced a tighter partnership with chipset makers Intel Corp. and Airspan Networks Inc., a Boca Raton, Fla.-based company that manufactures last-mile equipment, in a bid to speed new Wi-Max products to market.

Airspan’s AS-Max range encompasses Wi-Max base stations, network management software and subscriber terminals.

According to the agreement, Nortel will assume worldwide rights to resell Airspan’s Hiper-Max, Macro-Max and Micro-Max base stations and the Easy-ST and Pro-ST customer premises equipment.

Nortel’s strategy with Intel and Airspan complements a joint venture between Nortel and LG Electronics Inc. of Seoul, South Korea, which focuses on mobile wireless broadband. LG has also agreed to work with Intel to create a single international standard for wireless broadband Internet access.

The agreement will see the two companies work on combining the Intel-backed Wi-Max standard and the Korean Wi-Bro standard, said Karen Hyejin Park, a spokeswoman for LG Electronics.

Wi-Max and Wi-Bro are based on different versions of the same basic standard, IEEE 802.16. “Single broadband wireless access standardization would allow companies to avoid duplicate investments in handsets and systems that may occur between countries,” Park said. “Consumers will then be able to receive [fixed and mobile Wi-Max] services at a more affordable price.”

Plans for commercial Wi-Bro system deployment are already well advanced in South Korea. The government has announced plans to issue three national licences for Wi-Bro deployment.

On the Wi-Max side, Intel has already begun producing samples of its first chip to support the technology. The component, called Rosedale, is being supplied to major customers in anticipation of the start of trial services within the next year, Intel said in September.

Nortel says its Wi-Max products will be designed to allow wireless and wireline carriers, cable providers, media companies and other ISPs to deliver broadband connectivity to consumer and enterprise users by leveraging existing networks and last-mile wireless links.

The development of Nortel’s Wi-Max, added Gustafson, would eventually extend the reach of existing 3G cellular networks. Efforts were focussed on developing enough processing power to support multiple bands of radio frequency spectrum.

“We see Wi-Max linking to a ubiquitous 3G network, or a common core network such as IMS (Internet Protocol multimedia subsystem) that caters to EV-DO and CDMA cellular technology as well as Wi-Fi and Wi-Max frequencies,” said Gustafson.

Fixed Wi-Max is anticipated to operate in the 3.5GHz and 5.8GHz bands of spectrum, while mobile Wi-Max will initially operate in the 2.5GHz band.

Nortel expects its fixed Wi-Max products will be available in Q1, 2006. Wi-Bro field trials are scheduled in Asia later this year, with trials in North America in 2006.

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