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Navini Embraces WiMax

By Eric Griffith

http://www.wi-fiplanet.com/wimax/article.php/3340771/Navini-Embraces-WiMax.htm (Back to article)

It always makes a group feel stronger when a former hold-out joins. So the WiMax Forum -- the industry group championing the interoperability of future products that will use the long-distance 802.16 wireless metropolitan area network (MAN) standard -- probably feels pretty good about Navini Networks joining the fold.

The Richardson, Texas-based company, which currently makes non-line-of-sight (NLOS) wireless broadband products that are not based on an IEEE wireless standard, said this week it would join the forum and would add WiMax-based technology to its Ripwave product lineup when the standard is available.

Ripwave products use an adaptive phase array antenna technology patented by Navini. It's what Sai Subramanian, vice president of product management and strategic marketing calls the company's "secret sauce." The company will use the antenna technology in future WiMax/802.16a products.

802.16a will also eventually get a "Revision e," which adds mobility to a wireless network. (The IEEE 802.16 Working Group apparently told Navini not to call it 802.16e anymore -- but we will for simplicity's sake).

Navini previously was prepared only to support a draft specification from a different Working Group: 802.20. Subramanian says the company will still make 802.20-based products when the standard is ratified. Products using 802.16e will likely come to market first -- another good reason for Navini to join the WiMax Forum.

The main difference between 802.20 and .16e is that the former is for high-speed mobility, while latter covers "walking around" mobility. The two standards certainly overlap, though Navini has previously been quoted as saying the two standards would not compete, using the logic that the IEEE standard body wouldn't ratify two competing interests within the 802 Group. 802.20 was seen by some analysts as more of a competitor for 3G cellular services.

The WiMax Forum consists mainly of vendors that will support the 802.16a version of the specification -- a version which doesn't have the provisions to support mobility. Navini says because of that it will not make any straight 802.16a products, but will instead wait to include 802.16e.

Without the mobility, Subramanian says the wireless broadband lacks the necessary "link budget" to compete: long distance/range, plug-and-play portable mobile use, and broadband data connections.

"With 802.16a type products, you can deploy antennas and get great outdoor range and broadband speed -- but not plug-and-play mobility. Wi-Fi has the mobility and the broadband speed, but not the range." He says the Navini phased array antenna is the extra ingredient to make it all work -- but it will only do so using 802.16e.

Navini will work with the WiMax Forum to make sure the standard includes hooks so that smart antennas can be used, but Navini will keep the actual use of the "secret sauce" all to itself.

Navini is the first addition to the WiMax Forum since January, when AT&T and Covad joined. According to In-Stat/MDR, the fixed wireless market will generate more than $1.2 billion by the end of 2007, up from $558.7 million in 2003.