First 802.16a Product to Debut This Month

By Vikki Lipset

October 03, 2003

Companies wanting to deploy wireless connectivity across cities and rural areas may not have to wait too much longer for 802.16a-compliant products.

A Canadian fixed wireless company plans to unveil the first product compliant with the new 802.16a wireless metropolitan area network (MAN) standard at the ITU Telecom World Conference in Geneva this month.

Redline Communications, of Markham, Ontario, said that its product, which operates in the 3.5GHz band that has been licensed for fixed wireless access in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, is fully compliant with 802.16a. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) approved the amendment to the 802.16 standard in January 2003 in order to address non-line-of-sight (NLOS) requirements in outdoor broadband wireless applications.

802.16a is expected to jumpstart the deployment of wireless MANs in much the same way as 802.11b did for wireless LANs. The standard operates in the licensed and unlicensed frequencies between 2GHz and 11GHz using orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), which is also used by the 802.11a and 802.11g standards.

Redline's 802.16a system offers a throughput of 70Mbps with a range of up to 30 kilometers, according to Mitch Vine, product development director at the company. He said the product, which will work for point-to-point and point-to-multipoint deployments, is currently in trials with major carriers. (He declined to identify the carriers.)

The news is an indication that the supply chain for wireless MAN equipment is getting underway, said Andy Fuertes, a senior analyst at Visant Strategies. "It's not the big bang, but it's starting."

However, while the Redline product is compliant with the standard, it has not yet been certified by the WiMax Forum, the industry association backing the 802.16a standard. The group is not expected to begin testing products until early next year.

The WiMax Forum will likely test products in the 3.5GHz, 5-6GHz and 2.4GHz bands first, according to Fuertes. "Those are the bands that are seeing the greatest activity on a worldwide scale," he said.

Early products such as Redline's will be targeted at backhaul applications for enterprise access, he said, but products for the residential and SoHo markets will emerge throughout 2004.

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