802.16: The Future in Last Mile Wireless Connectivity - Page 2

By Beth Cohen

August 18, 2003

IEEE 802.16 Progress

Work on 802.16 started in July 1999. Four years into its mission, the IEEE 802.16 Working Group on Broadband Wireless Access has delivered a base and three follow-on standards.

  • IEEE 802.16 (“Air Interface for Fixed Broadband Wireless Access Systems”) was approved in December 2001. This standard is for wireless MANs operating at frequencies between 10 and 66 GHz.

  • IEEE 802.16.2, published in 2001, specifies a “recommended practice” to address the operation of multiple, different broadband systems in the 10-66 GHz frequency range.

  • In January of this year, the IEEE approved an amendment to 802.16, called 802.16a, which adds to the original standard operation in licensed and unlicensed frequency bands from 2-11 GHz.

  • 802.16c, which was approved in December 2002, is aimed at improving interoperability by specifying system profiles in the 10-66 GHz range.

The IEEE is not resting after all this work. Authorization for the development of a new amendment known as 802.16e, which would extend the standard to cover “combined fixed and mobile operation in licensed bands” (2-6 GHz), was approved in December 2002.

Other Wireless Broadband Standards

802.16 is not the only wireless broadband standard in the pipeline, and the IEEE is not the only industry group working on new standards for broadband wireless data services. Parallel to 802.16, the IEEE has also created a new working group, 802.20, which is charged with “the physical and medium access control layers of an air interface for interoperable mobile broadband wireless access systems that operate in licensed bands below 3.5 GHz.” 802.20's technical goal is to “optimize IP-based data transport, target peak data rates per user at over 1 Mbit/sec, and support vehicular mobility up to 250 km/hour.”

Meanwhile, the ETSI (the European Telecommunications Standards Institute) project BRAN (Broadband Radio Access Networks) has been creating two standards that are roughly parallel to IEEE 802.16 and 802.16a. HIPERACCESS covers frequencies above 11 GHz. While work on HIPERACCESS began before 802.16, it was approved after 802.16. HIPERMAN is for frequencies below 11 GHz. The two standards bodies cooperate to a certain extent.

Think of the vast opportunities that these new wireless technologies would open for carriers. Service providers could offer broadband wireless data connectivity as ubiquitous as cell phone connectivity, without the need to co-market hotspots. They could even extend it to moving targets like cars, RVs, and trains.

Which technology will providers adopt for the future? Could 802.16 and PDAs eventually replace cellular technology and handsets for wireless telephone service? The answers will depend on many factors, including which standard is translated into readily available products first as well as continuing advances in battery technology.

Page 3: The Importance of Frequency Bands

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