By Jeff Goldman
June 03, 2004
These pre-certified WiMax products — already in testing overseas with carriers — are supposedly easily upgradeable to actual WiMax when the standard and hardware are truly ready.
This week at WCA 2004, Alvarion launched its pre-certified WiMax platform, BreezeMAX. The platform is designed to support future WiMax certified equipment, making use of the Intel WiMax chipset once it becomes available.
The initial release, BreezeMAX 3500, operates at 3.5 GHz and has already undergone trial deployments with carriers in Europe and Asia. The platform includes macro and micro base stations as well as Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) for both business and residential markets.
Carlton O’Neal, Alvarion’s vice president of marketing, says the company has been working on these products for several years now, and the launch of BreezeMAX 3500 was initiated in response to customer requests.
“A few months ago, customers started saying, ‘We want the box–we know you’re close: just productize it and let’s start deploying it,'” O’Neal says.
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“Obviously, it’s not certified and the Intel chip’s not there, but it is our box that we built from the ground up for WiMax,” O’Neal says. Even though the product can’t yet be WiMax certified, he says customers still wanted access to the technology as quickly as possible.
The carriers’ eagerness to get involved with BreezeMAX, O’Neal says, is indicative of the current state of the market. “It’s not your grandmother’s telecom market any more,” he says. “Guys are out there under a lot of pressure to deploy, to sign up customers, to meet their business plans, and people are taking forward-looking risks.”
The anticipated timeline for the release of WiMax gear has noticeably changed as of the WCA 2004 show this week in Washington, DC. “The story was always the end of this year for the chip and the certification,” O’Neal says. “At this show, people are finally being honest and saying it’s going to be next year. The most optimistic forecast I’ve heard has been early next year–the more realistic one, I think, is the end of next year.”
O’Neal says any upgrades the equipment may require in the future in order to meet WiMax certification shouldn’t be difficult to incorporate. “When we built this box around 802.16, we knew what we were doing, and we did what we think will certify now,” he says. “We do see a path where we’ll do some software upgrades, maybe even some hardware upgrades, to get it certified–but we really feel confident that we’ve nailed nine tenths of it.”
While some tweaks will inevitably be necessary before certification, O’Neal is optimistic about the challenge. “We have the ability to do software and even firmware upgrades, and if we have to, we’ll do hardware,” he says. “The worst case is you have another card–the best case is it’s software. My guess is it’s somewhere in between. But we’re comfortable with that level of risk.”
The customer trials with the BreezeMAX product began in February, and are gradually being switched over to commercial deployments. “We’re out there deploying right now,” O’Neal says. “The worst case scenario for the customers is, it’s a next generation box that’s cheaper, faster, and better–and then you still have the WiMax benefit.”