March 26, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Wireless industry gears up for WiMax

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

As top executives gather in Orlando, Fla., this week at the CTIA Wireless 2007 trade show, an emerging technology called WiMax will likely be a hot topic among carriers and equipment makers from around the world. Many, in fact, are gearing up to deploy WiMax services.

Mobile operators have barely rolled out their new third-generation wireless networks, and they're already talking about the fourth generation. As next-generation cellular technologies--including those of the Long Term Evolution (LTE) project, whose mission is to guide the evolution of GSM cellular networks--have trouble getting off the ground, the industry has been turning its attention toward the WiMax packet-based technology.

"If the 3GSM show is any indication, then I think we will be hearing a lot about WiMax at CTIA," said Mohammad Shakouri, vice president of marketing for the Wimax Forum, referring to the 3GSM World Congress trade show held in February in Barcelona. "The technology is getting close to commercialization, and there has been a lot of buzz the past several months."

WiMax, which is similar to another packet-based wireless technology, Wi-Fi, already has the foundation for a strong ecosystem thanks to support from handset and infrastructure makers including Motorola, Samsung and Nokia, as well as from chipmaker Intel.

These companies are all expected to have WiMax products in the market sometime this year, and some will be shown off at CTIA. Samsung, for example, is expected to have on hand some of its already-announced WiMax-ready gear, including a handset, ultra-mobile PC and a new USB dongle that offers wireless broadband for laptops.

The WiMax Forum, the industry group that promotes the technology, has almost completed the necessary certification requirements for new products, another major step that could help push deployment. According to Shakouri, products using the 2.3GHz spectrum, which is used primarily in South Korea, will be certified by midyear. Products using the 3.5GHz will be certified in the third quarter, and products using the 2.5GHz spectrum, which is used mostly in the U.S., will have certification available by the end of the year.

WiMax, whose transmission distances range from a few hundred feet in densely populated areas to more than a mile in suburban areas, can support peak data speeds of 20 megabits per second, although average-user data rates fall between 2mbps and 8mbps. Data rates for the next-stage 3G cellular service--sometimes called 3.5G--are about 3mbps.

Asian markets lead the way
Momentum among carriers is already building. In Japan more WiMax-compatible spectrum will be allocated by the government later this year. Korea Telecom in South Korea is already committed to launching its WiMax service this year. There are also plans to launch WiMax services in India, Malaysia and Pakistan, as well as in parts of Eastern Europe, Shakouri said. And the government in Taiwan is spending $1 billion to encourage the manufacture and development of 2.5GHz WiMax products and applications.

Full coverage
CTIA revs up for wireless
One of the largest trade shows in the industry, CTIA Wireless 2007 showcases the latest products, strategies and developments in mobile technology.

In the U.S. Sprint, the No. 3 carrier, has already said it plans to spend $3 billion in the next two years to build a WiMax network, which is expected to be able to provide service to 100 million people by the end of 2008. Sprint is using its existing 2.5GHz spectrum, half of which it acquired from its merger with Nextel, to deliver the new service.

On Monday, Sprint announced several new cities that will be part of the WiMax network, It also named which of its named infrastructure partners would be developing which markets. Motorola will be developing Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Minneapolis, and Grand Rapids, Mich. Samsung will develop Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Providence, R.I. And Nokia will develop Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Sprint had previously announced that Chicago and Baltimore/Washington, D.C., would be the first two markets to get the service, by the end of 2007. And Nokia had also previously named it would develop four markets, in Texas, for deployment in early 2008: Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio.

Currently, the only other operator in the U.S. using WiMax is a start-up called Clearwire, which was founded by mobile-industry billionaire Craig McCaw. Today it delivers WiMax broadband services to fixed locations, but eventually the company will offer mobile service as well. Clearwire, which raised $900 million in venture backing this summer, went public earlier this month.

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4 comments

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Spell Check: compatible.
"But in a WiMax world, where someone might own three or four WiMax-competible devices"
Posted by jeolmeun (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The typo has been fixed
Thank you.
Posted by Zoe Slocum (42 comments )
Link Flag
Feed Back from your Website-Cell Phone ETFs
I totally agree with the article, well, not quite. I go one step further. People do not need to fall for the obvious, there are alternatives.

I fell for it once, years ago, and then no more. When I was released from my two years of shackles, I bought myself a top Ericsson GPS phone and never looked back. Once a month, I charge my card with just what I want to use. If I need to refill earlier, no big deal. I have NO ancillary charges; I can take my phone all over the world by simply changing cards or buying a GPS card which covers all countries. The coverage of these phone companies has greatly improved and now competes with most of the hard-core timers.

I know that I am not an avid cell phone user, to me it is a tool not an excuse for endless chats, but my monthly bill averages $10.00 with ConUS or International usage. I have recovered the initial price of the phone ages ago, and I could have bought a much cheaper model to start with.

I smile at the "Network" I can do better cheaper!
Posted by ahg (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
WiMAX Transmission Distances
The technology writer might be misleading the transmission distances of WiMAX. Please check it out in WiMAX white paper.
Posted by Quemannn (76 comments )
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