Tuesday, June 29, 2004

WiMAX 'Overhyped,' But Arriving On Schedule

This interesting article from Ted Shelton, IP Inferno

CHICAGO -- Dr. Mohammad S. Shakouri, the chair of the marketing working group for the WiMAX Forum, is worried that WiMAX has been overhyped.

"This isn't our doing, it is the marketplace getting excited before the technology is ready," said Shakouri, the assistant vice president for business development at WiMAX equipment vendor Alvarion. Shakouri, interviewed at the Supercomm show here Tuesday, worries that WiMAX may suffer the same fate as Bluetooth.

"It (Bluetooth) is a great technology, but the expectations were so high there was disappointment." For the WiMAX Forum, he said, "managing the hype and executing over the next few years are our biggest problems." The WiMAX Forum, a marketing organization created to promote the various flavors of the 802.16 standard, has more than 100 members, including big names like Intel, Fujitsu, Alcatel and AT&T, as well as providers like Qwest, British Telecom and France Telecom.

Despite concerns about the technology being overly promoted, Shakouri is pleased at WiMAX's progress. He said Tuesday's announcement that Motorola is joining the WiMAX Forum will be joined by more big-name announcements. "Samsung, Lucent, and Nortel -- at least two of these three will definitely be on board soon," Shakouri said.

Shakorui said there are two timelines important for understanding when the marketplace will actually have WiMAX products -- the schedule for standards approval, and when real products will be available. On the standards side, 802.16a was the initial standard and is for fixed broadband wireless. This was published back at the beginning of 2004. The next two standards are "d" and "e" -- with "d" WiMAX adds portability and with "e" mobility. The 802.16d standard has been approved and will be published by mid-July. The 802.16e standard is expected to be approved by the end of Q1 2005 and published in mid-2005.

On implementations, the WiMAX Forum expects to provide WiMAX certification for the first devices, with interoperability between manufacturers, by mid-2005. In the meantime, there are a set of vendors providing "pre-WiMAX" products.

Such products are helpful to early adopters who are already running trials to gain expertise and ready themselves for full rollouts. Europe is leading the overall market, with British Telecom and France Telecom already trialing pre-WiMAX equipment. Shakouri expects that there will be a few Asian service providers in trials within the next three to four months.

While Europe and Asia are leading the charge into WiMAX, the U.S. will be a laggard. This is primarily an issue with spectrum availability, since some of the applicable WiMAX sprectrum is used for military applications in America, while control and availability in other areas of the wireless spectrum remains uncertain. Shakouri expects that it will be late 2005 before WiMAX installations start appearing in the U.S.

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