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Preview: WiMax Networking News

WiMax Networking News

Covering WiMax and broadband wireless networking news

Published: 2008-09-29T14:45:55-08:00


Sprint Xohm Launches in Baltimore


At last, WiMax: The first real market saturated with WiMax anywhere in the world for general consumer home and mobile use is out. Yes, Seoul has WiBro, compatible with mobile WiMax, but they have very few users because--the last I've heard about the network--deployment is focused in limited areas. Baltimore is a real production market, where Sprint will actively push the service as a home broadband replacement ($25 per month), a mobile option ($30 per month), and even an a la carte option (the egregious $10 per day). Subsidized laptop cards are $60; home receivers $80. The company also offers a two device, $50 per month plan; I expect those deals will become cheaper over time because the WiMax promise is an ecosystem of devices owned by one person. That's not going to happen with a high monthly price tag attached to every device. Two more markets have been in preparation for a while, and are expected soon. The Clearwire joint venture could complete in fourth quarter.

Motorola Announces WiMax Dongle for Laptops


Motorola will offer the USBw 100 for multiple bands: The dongle, expect to ship in 2008's fourth quarter, will allow laptop users to access WiMax networks in the most popular bands: 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz, and 3.5 GHz. The MIMO USB adapter doesn't have an announced price. (image) A dongle extends the practical utility of WiMax networks, because the vast majority of laptops won't have WiMax built in or available as an internal option until sometime in 2009. PC Cards and ExpressCards are another option--Motorola already has a PC Card--but an increasing number of laptops eschew card-expansion slots for size, cost, and practical reasons. Few people need them these days. A dongle is not a thing of beauty, but it's a great way to get an antenna out of a case and at an extension from a laptop.

Sprint, Clearwire Deployment Updates: Late, Later


MuniWireless has the scoop on how WiMax deployments from Sprint and Clearwire are progressing: Intel is late on its silicon, so Centrino2 won't feature WiMax built in, as was planned for the last couple of years, I thought. Clearwire and Sprint will keep operating separately until the fourth quarter, assuming they can close their joint venture that will be called Clearwire, but feature Sprint majority ownership and Sprint's 4G assets transferred to the new entity. Sprint will launch WiMax in Baltimore in September with Chicago and D.C. to follow; Clearwire in Portland by fourth quarter, then Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Grand Rapids, Mich. Grand Rapids, you may ask--why Grand Rapids? That's the one municipal contract proposal that Clearwire answered and won in competition with Wi-Fi service providers. It's been a testbed since, as I understand it, for providing more comprehensive services as the city had a requirement for coverage area and other parameters

Commercial WiMax Launches in September in Baltimore


Sprint's CEO announces the commercial launch at trade show: Dan Hesse said that Sprint's WiMax offering will first launch in Baltimore, followed "later" (no time given) in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Apparently, no details on pricing, production speeds, and so forth. In testing, 2 to 4 Mbps downstream speeds were used.

2.5 GHz Gets Official: Certified WiMax Products Appear


In an important move for costs eventually moving lower for Clearwire/Sprint, the WiMax Forum has certified its first 2.5 GHz products: The firms include all that putative joint venture's partners: Intel, Motorola, Samsung, and Zyxel, as well as Airspan, Alvarion, Beceem, and Sequans, some of which may also supply gear. Nortel recently shifted its WiMax strategy to lean on Alvarion's research and development after not getting contracts to be a main supplier to Sprint or Clearwire. The 3.5 GHz certification could start late this year; those frequencies will be in wide use outside the US. Certification is a tricky thing in the WiMax world because it was designed in waves, and it isn't explained anywhere on the WiMax Forum site that I can find, nor outside of a vendor comment that this is Wave 2, is it mentioned in this press release. Each wave includes a set of concepts and device types. Monica Paolini, a wireless analyst and consultant who has worked for the WiMax Forum, spelled this out nearly three years ago for Wi-Fi Planet.

Nortel Moves to LTE, Away from WiMax


Nortel was trumpeting its WiMax prowess last year: But they missed out on major contracts in the U.S., and so are shifting their focus to Long Term Evolution (LTE), the path for GSM operators (and Verizon) to fourth-generation networks. Three of the four major U.S. carriers are committed to LTE; Sprint is the lone WiMax holdout. Intel's wireless chief made comments recently about pushing LTE and WiMax into a converged, compatible format, too. Nortel will partner with WiMax pioneer Alvarion to continue its WiMax work, but obviously is leaning on them, and putting its research and development money into LTE.

Intel Calls for WiMax, LTE Convergence


Intel's sales and marketing head calls for unified WiMax, LTE for 4G: Sean Maloney has been a driving force behind WiMax, and he makes a good point. With Qualcomm-driven standards not in the running for U.S. and European cell data evolution--nor in many other parts of the world--there's not much of a patent or single-company-owned technology debate here. Really, it's a question about evolution and interoperability. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon are committed to LTE; Sprint and Clearwire to WiMax. WiMax technology is available today; LTE could be in the 2010-2012 timeframe for real deployments. WiMax can push 10 to 20 Mbps or more depending on spectrum allocation and other issues; LTE is estimated to offer 50 to 100 Mbps downstream. Maloney said 80 percent of the two technologies were the same and Motorola says it will reuse 85 percent of what was developed for WiMax in its LTE design. Sounds very rational. With Intel's backing, carriers might go for it, because it could mean having every laptop shipped already containing an LTE receiver.

Schools Profit from Clearwire, Sprint License Purchases


The LA Times uncovers a fact that those of us following WiMax know: schools are reaping a huge payday and other help from their spectrum licenses: The LA Times has a lot of specifics about how academic institutions, granted licenses for distance learning and broadcasting, have managed to take in hundreds of millions of dollars that benefit their students and campuses. The 2.5 GHz band that these schools hold geographic licenses to can be leased to commercial entities under rules set by the FCC to make better use of the band. Some of the sublessors have paid for schools to move broadcasts from analog to digital, improving their service and freeing up bandwidth, as well as licensing fees. The paper estimates that 1,400 agreements have been signed to lease spectrum.

Official Sprint/Clearwire Details Out


The press release ships: The new $14.5b (estimated) joint venture between Clearwire and Sprint will be called Clearwire. That's another ego win on top of the financial win for one Mister Craig McCaw. Clearwire "2" will be headed by current CEO Ben Wolff, and the president will be Sprint's very smart CTO and mobile broadband chief Barry West. They'll headquarter in Kirkland, Wash., with R&D in Herndon, Virg. Sprint will own 51 percent, Clearwire 27 percent, and the new investors 22 percent. Their new announced plan is to pass 120 to 140m people by 2010, which is fairly modest, but Sprint will be retaining its current 3G business. Clearwire, Sprint, and all the cable investors announced 3G and 4G sales deals that will allow all partners to resell all 3G and 4G services. That was apparently an earlier missing piece for cable operators, who didn't want to invest in a service that wouldn't be rolled out across their entire territories for some time.

Sprint, Clearwire in Imminent $12b Deal


Finally: The Wall Street Journal reports that a joint venture is almost ready to announce that will combine Clearwire with Sprint's wireless broadband division in a $12b company that will receive an infusion of $3.2b from outside firms, including Intel, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Google. The deal could be announced tomorrow. The cable involvement is clear: Cable providers may have a path to a 50 Mbps broadband vision (a standard that's rolling out now), but they need mobile partners for data and voice, and Sprint has been that partner for the four big MSO (multiple system operators). This deal would validate the WiMax approach, and ensure that a national network would be built with enough spectrum in each market to provide the greatest possible bandwidth. It would be yet another win for Craig McCaw, of course, the man who essentially dictates through his ability to be smart ahead of the market what wireless voice and broadband will look like tomorrow, always tomorrow.

Sprint WiMax Head Says His Tech Here, Now, Works


Sprint's Xohm division head Barry West tells the Wireless Communications Association that WiMax is real: He points out that critics that are adopting LTE (Long Term Evolution) are signing on to a standard that won't be deployed for some time (2 to 4 years, depending on the firm and what you believe).

Mobile WiMax Profile for Korean Frequencies First for Certification


The WiMax Forum certifies first mobile WiMax products: However, they're all for the 2.3 GHz profile, used in South Korea, not the 2.5 GHz profile which will be used by Sprint Nextel and Clearwire in the US, nor the 3.5 GHz profile used in Europe and beyond. Eight devices were certified. Certification for devices using 2.5 GHz is coming later this year.

Sprint Xohm Network Delayed; Backhaul the Issue


Sprint pushes back its WiMax network launch: The production version of the network, currently in trials, won't launch until the summer at earliest in their first markets. Unstrung is saying that backhaul to WiMax base station sites is the issue, not the underlying technology. Which I have to say makes sense, given that a fair amount of the technology is actively in production.

Nokia Offers N810 Tablet with WiMax


Nokia demoed its N810 tablet with embedded WiMax: The latest version of their N800-series tablets will ship when Sprint Nextel's Xohm service launches later this quarter. The current similar tablet runs $440, IDG News Service notes, but pricing for this model hasn't been set. Nokia provided an interesting detail: they expect 2 to 4 Mbps of average speed from Xohm, with 10 Mbps peaks. Those numbers haven't been talked about much pre-launch.

Motorola Splits Handsets into Separate Firm


Motorola bows to shareholder pressure, splits firm: The company will divide into two pieces in what Motorola hopes will be tax free to shareholders. One company will take the handset operations, which have languished; the other, enterprise, modem, and set-top boxes. This puts WiMax in the "good" company, the one that has a lot of potential to grow into a new international market, as well as continuing their sales of Canopy and fixed WiMax gear. The handset business would also encompass WiMax embedded into phones, but it's likely a smaller part of Motorola's WiMax portfolio.