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WiMAX trials give new hope for broadband wireless specialists

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Trials of WiMAX-ready equipment for broadband wireless access (BWA) are coming thick and fast as operators test the real world capabilities of the standard in preparation for 2004 roll-outs.

And the new cost-effectiveness of building powerful metro area networks will have a knock-on effect on some previously sidelined backbone technologies, giving them a new lease of life in backhauling WiMAX and linking WMans to form national networks that really could challenge 3G.

The history of broadband wireless has been largely one of disappointment to date. Pioneers like Teligent, Nextlink and Winstar entered the market in the late 1990s with networks based on cost effective LMDS (Local Multipoint Distribution System), but they played safe and stayed in over-served metro areas of the US rather than remote regions, and having paid huge federal fees for their licenses, all three companies filed for bankruptcy.

Carriers such as MCI and Sprint invested in an alternative, MMDS (Multi-channel Multipoint Distribution System) but failed to gain significant market momentum – although BellSouth continues to push the technology, and announced trials in two rural North Carolina counties this week using its 2.3GHz licenses.

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