Make-or-break year for WiMax

Interesting article from The Register on WiMax. I agree that 2005 is going to be a make or break year. As the article points out, standards have been ratified, however there has been very little interoperability or certification testing.

It is also interesting to note that there are a number of models in play. Intel is pushing a varient where the CPE device uses WiMax to connect to the network, based on the upcoming mobile version of the WiMax standard, 802.16e. Others companies such as Cambridge Broadband are simply using WiMax as a backhaul technology, with WiFi for the connection from hotspot down to the CPE. I believe the Telabria trials in Kent are due to utilise this latter model initially.

TowerStream is an US based example of an operator planning a phased rollout, starting from pre-standard WiMax kit from Aperto. They are starting with POPs on tall buildings to deliver T1 replacement service to enterprises within a 10 mile radius of the POP. They use 18GHz microwave links to bypass the regional/local carriers, enabling them to drop traffic directly at a long-haul carrier POP, or internet peering point. As soon as WiMax 802.16d kit becomes available they'll upgrade their network. As most of the costs are associated with site acquisition (such as on the Empire State Building!), so this isn't going to be a big expenditure. They are also hoping that the 802.16e (the mobile version) will become available as a software download, allowing them to turn their network into a mobile telephony business overnight.

Today they are experimenting with Wi-Fi SIP phones, as a precursor to this migration. From there COO Jeff Thompson pictures a transition to a seamless shift from Wi-Fi to WiMax as people wander in and out of hotspots with hybrid phones, once the 16e standard yields roaming mobile handsets, probably during 2007.

Another operator, Speakeasy is aiming for the mobility space - by 2007 it aims to have a service that integrates VoIP, data and video and can be taken throughout the US via mobile WiMax devices and public hotspot access.

Sources: The Register - WiMax The Register - Telabria The Register - WISPs