WiMax World offers demos of mobile WiMax capability as rollouts near

MobileAccess announces WiMax module to work with cellular, Wi-Fi, public safety nets

WiMax World 2007 opens in Chicago tomorrow with major service providers and network equipment vendors expected to offer demonstrations and a few details on plans for mobile WiMax deployments that will hit their stride next year.

Sprint Nextel Corp. Chief Technology Officer Barry West will provide an update of Sprint's Xohm wireless network in a keynote Wednesday. In August, he said the service will be launched in Chicago and the Washington/Baltimore area by year's end, and will reach 100 million users by the end of 2008.

Motorola Corp., meanwhile, is planning to demonstrate its coming mobile WiMax technology from a boat in the waters of Lake Michigan.

Many of the WiMax plans are focused on major hardware devices being sold to carriers for backhauling wireless signals from outdoor mesh networks that have Wi-Fi connectivity. Sprint's Xohm will be open access, giving WiMax-certified devices such as laptops and handhelds the ability to operate at speeds up to 4Mbit/sec., perhaps five times faster than what carriers call third-generation wireless speeds, West said in August.

However, one vendor, MobileAccess Networks Inc. in Vienna, Va., announced new WiMax hardware today that will work in remote wiring closets of businesses to deliver WiMax capabilities alongside Wi-Fi, cellular and public safety networks.

The MobileAccess WiMax module, to be shown at the trade show, will undergo WiMax certification from Sprint, said MobileAccess CEO Cathy Zatloukal in an interview. "We expect several existing customers will be interested in it," she said.

The module will fit inside an existing MobileAccess MA-2000 Universal Wireless Network box now deployed in many businesses to aggregate multiple wireless signals for Wi-Fi, cellular and public safety, she explained. The value of having a WiMax module to add-in is that it will work alongside existing infrastructure and provides a single cabling infrastructure to support it.

One MobileAccess customer, Tommy Russo of Akridge Real Estate Services in Washington, said he plans to add the WiMax module to his MobileAccess hardware when it is available.

"WiMax will give us bigger play and more robust service," said Russo, chief technology officer at Akridge, which provides Wi-Fi and cellular services in a downtown building for hundreds of employees and customers. "As more devices use WiMax, which will happen, it enables more things to connect, everything from telephones and laptops with WiMax."

Russo said he expects building management and lighting controls could run over WiMax. Someday, WiMax could even be used to merge Wi-Fi and ZigBee, a wireless standard for embedded control devices, he said.

Russo said he has seen the MobileAccess module, but he has not tested it, and is eager to start testing as soon as possible. His building has been using voice-over-Wi-Fi for about 18 months.

The price for the module has not been announced, Zatloukal said.

MobileAccess' module is so far unique, although placing WiMax alongside other wireless modes inside a building will be important to other vendors, said Craig Mathias, an analyst at The Farpoint Group in Ashland, Mass., and a Computerworld columnist. MobileAccess competes with LGC Wireless in San Jose, and Interwireless Inc. in Universal City, Calif., he said.

At WiMax World, there will be plenty of demonstrations, including the module by MobileAccess, Mathias said. "The WiMax market is here now and we'll see a rollout of commercial services this year, so the show is a chance to get your hands on it, to see what it does and what it costs. The reality is coming quickly and we'll see how successful it will be."

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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