WiMax on the Horizon

By Eric Griffith

November 10, 2005

The end of a second WiMax plugfest shows more companies interoperating.

Last week was the latest plugfest sponsored by the WiMax Forum, and several companies are reporting successful interoperability demonstrations with their equipment.

The latest face-to-face plugfest was held in Beijing at the China Academy of Telecommunication Research (CATR) Labs. It was co-sponsored by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and Cetecom Labs. Testing included not only data transfers but also voice and video communications.

Companies claiming interoperability during the week-long testing and demonstrations include Airspan Networks, Axxcelera Broadband Wireless, Picochip, Aperto Networks, Redline Communications, Sequans Communications and Wavesat. Other participants were announced as Huawei Technologies, Proxim Wireless, WiNetworks and ZTE Corporation, plus test equipment vendors Invenova Corporation and Sanjole.

The testing of some products apparently covered only Frequency Division Duplexing (FDD), which the WiMax Forum FAQ says "provides for a Half Duplex FDD (HD-FDD) mode," but using two separate sets of spectrum. That includes products from Airspan, Axxcelera, Picochip and Sequans.

Other testing was for support of Time Division Duplex (TDD), where "the system transmits and receives within the same channel assigning time slices for transmit and receive mode," according to the FAQ. (Read more at Wimax/802.16 Revealed.) Redline announced that it had "achieved TDD interoperability with four WiMax Vendors" at the plugfest, but did not list who those vendors were.

The 802.16-2004 standard that WiMax is based on defines support for both TDD and FDD in the Media Access Control (MAC) layer. Some countries only allow support for FDD.

Several of these companies have previously submitted equipment to Cetecom Labs in Malaga, Spain for WiMax Forum certification testing, many with the hope of becoming an early leader by virtue of getting that initial validation. The WiMax Forum has previously indicated that it hopes to have equipment certified before the end of the calendar year 2005.

Intel took advantage of the timing of the plugfest, as well as the Boston-based WiMax World 2005 show last week, to mention that companies using its WiMax chips (Airspan, Alcatel, Alvarion and Redline) are providing equipment to 13 carriers now, with 11 more customers planning to deploy soon. The networks are in countries all over the globe, including the Dominican Republic, Ireland, Finland, Guatemala, Ukraine, Peru, Taiwan, Germany, Chile, Argentina, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines, to name a few.

Last week, Motorola and Intel announced plans to collaborate heavily within the WiMax Forum "to ensure that network and device interoperability issues are addressed adequately," specifically for 802.16e, also known as mobile WiMax. They want to make sure that systems running at the speed of a car can easily hand off from base station to base station without losing a wireless broadband connection. Motorola won't even make any WiMax products using the current 802.16-2004 spec, which doesn't support mobility. The two types of WiMax, fixed and mobile, won't interoperate.  

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