MAN Evolves with Wireless Standard 802.16

By Michael Singer

May 02, 2003

FEATURE: Groups like WiMAX are looking to take hotspots to the 'Metro' level with IEEE's latest approved wireless standard sans the alphabet soup.

A new wireless standard is beginning to capture the attention of carriers hoping to cash in on the Wi-Fi craze and it won't be long before it takes over entire buildings and cites.

Unlike its sleek sounding and highly consumer proliferated cousin 802.11, IEEE wireless metropolitan area network (MAN) standard 802.16 is designed more for fixed Broadband Wireless Access (BWA), which could provide network access support to buildings with speeds close to that of high-speed fiber optic networks.

Originally ratified back in April 2002, 802.16 had its first amendment -- 802.16a -- approved in January 2003 to help get around the line-of-sight issues.

The original standard specifies the WirelessMAN-SC air interface, a single-carrier (SC) modulation scheme designed to operate in the 10-66 GHz spectrum. That spectrum supports continuously varying traffic levels at many licensed frequencies (including 10.5, 25, 26, 31, 38 and 39 GHz) for two-way communications.

Wireless Internet services providers (WISPs), nationwide and multinational carriers, and independent telephone companies are expected to be major customers of equipment developed under the standard.

But with some of the first certified products expected to reach the market in the second half of 2004, the race is on to add Wi-MAN to a company's wireless arsenal.

WiMAX Formed
In the same way that the Wi-Fi Alliance (previously the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance or WECA) rallied vendors to meet interoperability standards, a new group sprouted wings last year to help keep carriers on the same page.

Invigorated by the addition of Intel , WiMax Forum is a non-profit group formed to certify and promote the developing wireless broadband standard.

WiMAX president Margaret LaBrecque told the group expects to see 802.16a products appearing on the market in the second half of 2004.

"In terms of the standard, 802.16 it was designed last mile carrier class solution and will be great for both business customers and residential users," LaBrecque said. "In a metro area incumbent carriers could introduce and adjust bandwidth for customers easily. We are already seeing it used in Boston with a service provider called PowerStream. The company is servicing the Big Dig with 802.16 set ups, which is needed to give the crews access every time the site moves."

Along with Intel, the WiMAX Forum membership includes Airspan Networks, Aperto Networks, Ensemble Communications, Fujitsu, Nokia, OFDM Forum, Proxim and Wi-LAN.

"We're using ITU and ISO methods for conformance tests first," LaBreque said. "The thing that has to follow next is that interoperability groups and vendors get together. The issues will have to be worked out over time. We think we have a good set of companies going into the project.

LaBrecque says about 70 more companies have applications for compatibility in the pipeline.

"The criteria is that they support the 802.16 standard," LaBrecque said. Our principle members must be developing with intent to ship the products. Our regular members only have to announce support or intent to deploy WirelessMAN."

Continued on page 2 with: Not Your Same 'Ole Alphabet Soup

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