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WiMax has momentum, but alternatives are here now

By Stephen Lawson
August 19, 2005 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - In the race among wireless broadband technologies, the still-developing mobile WiMax is building up a head of steam with a community of supporting vendors. But less well-publicized approaches are available now and have some intriguing advantages.

Two of the more prominent WiMax rivals on the market are Fast Low-latency Access with Seamless Handoff-Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (FLASH-OFDM), sold by Flarion Technologies Inc., and Universal Mobile Telecommunications System Time-Division Code Division Multiple Access (UMTS TD-CDMA), which IPWireless Inc. promotes as an easy migration for cellular operators. FLASH-OFDM got a boost earlier this month when Qualcomm Inc. agreed to acquire Flarion. Both of these technologies offer mobility today and are in commercial use.

WiMax, which has the potential to work on a wide range of both licensed and unlicensed radio frequencies, is based on the 802.16 family of standards set by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Gear for fixed implementations is expected to be certified by the WiMax Forum industry group starting late this year. Mobility will come with a standard called 802.16e, probably heading for approval late this year, according to Mo Shakouri, vice president and a board member at the WiMax Forum. Certified gear based on that standard is expected to go into commercial deployment in 2007.

Many in the industry are drawn to the potential economies of scale of a standards-based technology. With a variety of vendors using the standard to build competing products, certified for interoperability, customers should see lower prices and avoid being tied to one vendor, analysts said.

U.S. mobile operator Sprint Corp. has not committed itself to one wireless broadband technology but is a member of the WiMax Forum and is working with equipment vendors to move mobile WiMax forward. Though there is still work to be done on finishing a specification and building a vendor community, Sprint is optimistic.

"What we think is very unique is this global ecosystem around this standard-based approach," said Len Barlik, vice president of technology development at Sprint.

On the other hand, the benefits of the Flarion and IPWireless technologies go beyond the fact that they can be deployed today.

FLASH-OFDM requires less radio spectrum than does WiMax and can be adapted to many different bands depending on what frequencies a service provider holds, said Ronny Haraldsvik, vice president of global communications and marketing at Flarion. That means it could be used with low-frequency bands that offer greater range and thus require fewer base stations, he said. By contrast, certified WiMax products will work only in the frequency bands adopted by the WiMax Forum. The

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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