WiMax on Trial

By Colin C. Haley

March 15, 2005

Nortel and LG will jointly develop and market products around the wireless broadband technology, and AT&T plans two commercial WiMAX trials this year.

NEW ORLEANS -- Expanding an existing partnership, network equipment giant Nortel and handset maker LG Electronics will jointly develop and market WiMax products.

The agreement, announced here at the CTIA Wireless 2005 trade show, will combine Nortel's carrier packet networking with LG Electronics' mobile telecom and digital convergence experience.

The Canadian and South Korean companies are planning their first WiMax 802.16e trials in the second half of next year. The company did not say where the tests would take place.

The pact comes two months after Nortel and LG inked a joint venture partnership to market telecom and network equipment in South Korea.

"Today's WiMax news is the first proof point of our previously announced joint venture," Camille Beasley, a spokewoman for Nortel, said. "It's a prime example of how Nortel and LG are pooling their efforts to deliver the highest quality networking solutions using the latest technologies."

WiMax is a developing technology that supports very high bit rates in uploading and downloading from a base station up to a distance of 30 miles.

In addition to bringing services such as high-speed Internet access and Voice over Internet Protocol to rural areas, office parks and educational campuses, there are other early-adopter opportunities, experts say.

For example, WiMax systems stationed around shipping and trucking hubs and tied into RFID and video surveillance could help eliminate "shrinkage," the industry's term for goods and services that are lost or stolen in transit.

In a more generic sense, vendors could sell against incumbent telecom carriers on cost, comparing their services with T-1 and other traditional business services.

Nortel has been active in the WiMax Forum, an industry organization that promotes interoperability and certification of broadband wireless products. And LG Electronics has been growing as a major contributor in IEEE 802.16e.

Others aren't so sure. Although tests are picking up speed, critics question whether there is a dominant application that could be delivered over WiMax.

In other WiMax news, AT&T revealed that it is planning two sets of commercial WiMax trials this year. Ma Bell has been testing WiMax in its labs since the fourth quarter.

The first commercial test will take place in Middletown, N.J., about an hour from New York, and includes data transfer services for a retail customer, Andy Backover, an AT&T spokesman, told internetnews.com.

The second trial will take place later this year in a major market and will likely include VoIP, Backover said. The company has not finalized the city yet, nor chosen the equipment vendors for the trials.



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