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Will WiMAX 2 do any better this time around

You can view WiMAX two entirely different ways, as a standard, set up to take on cellular technologies in their own backyard, or an alternative wirel


Published: 20 January, 2011


You can view WiMAX two entirely different ways, as a standard, set up to take on cellular technologies in their own backyard, or an alternative wireless broadband technology, which can offer cellular providers an improvement in spectral performance in key applications.

In the first instance we expect new business models including cellular voice and cheaply initiated rural DSL replacement (a la Clearwire), in particular new operators with flat rate, WiFi class billing, in the second, it becomes an invisible technology, just a network of choice for any given situation, such as a cellular back channel for heavy lifting of data a bit like WiFi on steroids, as it used to be billed.

Throughout the past 7 years WiMAX to Faultline has meant that broadband operators have emerged with little or no chance of offering a triple play, in each case forced to neglect video as a dimension, as either they have tried to compete with cellular or tried to sell to cellular operators things like backhaul or offload capacity. For a brief moment there was one company that tried to offer a marriage between DTH and WiMAX, Israel’s WiNetworks, but it slipped out of the business without a single design win. That had promised to provide a WiMAX back channel for DTH.

Later, WiMAX has been delivered with its own multicasting software, which would make it possible to deliver limited TV over a WiMAX network, but once again, there have been no takers. There was even a specialist TV system developed around this by IP Wireless, when it was part of NextWave, but when the UK company did a management buyout, it left’s its MXtv product in the bankrupt shell of NextWave, where it remains.

So what exactly will be the point of WiMAX2, which is now promising to become standardized and ready to go into products sometime during 2011. One of the main achievements of WiMAX has been to accelerate the arrival of LTE, and to ensure that it sat on a set of OFDM channels, so that it could enjoy the spectral efficiency and pure IP like nature of OFDM (using multiple thousands of separate radio signals in parallel, suits IP packet delivery and QoS protocols extremely well).

Surely that’s the job done, and to some extent the war lost, given that the mass rollouts of LTE will drive down LTE equipment pricing in a way that WiMAX can only have dreamed about. But when you have an eco-system of suppliers and literally thousands of tiny WiMAX networks, upgrading them to LTE seems not only a shame, but too tricky a technical step. Small operators in particular want to stick with WiMAX, and perhaps that will mean that the technical agenda for the standard will suit their needs.

The new WiMAX2, based on the 802.16m standard, will be backwards compatible with the current Mobile WiMAX platform, but with faster data rates, and enhanced security and power efficiency. It will also support wide 20MHz channels.

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