Jumping the Gun on WiMax

By Jeff Goldman

March 15, 2005

Instead of waiting for the full interoperability testing, three companies have already decided to do some 'private pre-testing' to make sure their equipment plays nice together.

Yesterday at the CeBIT 2005 show in Hanover, Germany, Alvarion , Airspan Networks and Redline Communications announced the start of private interoperability testing between the three companies' IEEE 802.16-2004 systems, getting a head start on July's official IEEE WiMax certification at Cetecom Spain.

The products that the three companies are testing for interoperability are Alvarion's BreezeMAX platform, Airspan's AS.MAX product line, and Redline's AN-100U line of "pre-WiMax" base stations. The first phase of testing is specifically focused on compatibility at the PHY layer. A second phase of testing, focused on the MAC layer, is planned.

Peter Aronstam, Airspan Networks' Chief Financial Officer, says the aim of the interoperability testing is to ensure that July's official WiMax certification goes as smoothly (and quickly) as possible. "What the three of us decided to do was rather than wait until July to go there one by one to do the certification and the testing, we would try out our equipment with each other to see if what we've made so far works interoperably," he says. "So at least we have some degree of confidence now that what we're building will be okay when we go to the official labs to do the testing—call it private pre-testing against the standard."

The fact that this particular group of companies chose to work together, Aronstam says, is a reflection of their respective positions in the market. "If you look at the membership of the WiMax Forum, you have very big guys in the space like Cisco and Lucent and Nortel and Nokia, but in terms of companies that actually make and sell broadband wireless access equipment today, looking at their revenues, Alvarion and ourselves are probably the two biggest of the publicly-traded companies," he says. "So it was easy for us to decide to do it with them, because we expect to run into Alvarion equipment often in the marketplace once the certification is done."

Redline, on the other hand, may be less of a direct competitor to Airspan or Alvarion, but offers a backhaul product that's likely to be integral to future WiMax networks. "We work with Redline closely on backhaul transmission for our network, so it was easy for us to choose them to see if the interfaces to their backhaul products would work," Aronstam says.

While at CeBIT, Airspan also announced plans to work with Japanese telecom YOZAN to build a WiMax network that will cover the metro area of Tokyo, to be called the Yozan MetroZone. Trials with the AS.MAX products will start in the second quarter and continue through final delivery of base stations (600 total) at this time next year. The software used will support 802.16-2004 at first and will be upgradeable to 802.16e, the mobile version of WiMax.

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