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WiMAX summit: 'Standards-plus' could harm 802.16 roadmap

But which roadmap will be followed?

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This would be bad news for vendors that have put significant investment already in to fixed WiMAX, and for those that believe the big customers are waiting for mobility - and may not make the WiMAX move at all until they see an easy route to 802.16e. Some argue that the OFDM 256 PHY must be preserved in order to make the 802.16-2004 a valuable platform. WaveSat, for instance - the first chipmaker to get 802.16 compliant silicon to market - is adamant that sub-channelization can be supported in OFDM 256 and that this would be as strong a basis for mobility as SOFDMA.

This decision needs to be made, one way or the other, in the near future before operators will have a clear picture of how they can move towards mobile WiMAX. Until they do this, they will remain confused and frustrated and are unlikely to make major investments without a clear route forward.

The 'd+' route

Some, of course, especially in the wireline community, are interested in adopting any flavor of WiMAX as early as possible in order to expand broadband services into new markets. For these, the capabilities of 802.16-2004 are what matters and they already have high - some would say inflated - expectations of what standards certified gear will deliver when it ships in the autumn. Aware of the danger of disappointing early adopters at a time when WiMAX is already facing something of a backlash, chipmakers and vendors are racing to build as much functionality as possible into the platform.

French chip start-up Sequans is one example, with what it calls its 'd+' platform. The company is seeking to differentiate itself from the larger silicon vendors with a focus on some key operator criteria such as advanced quality of service, and on a highly integrated system-on-a-chip (SoC) that will be suitable for low cost micro base stations and small consumer devices. Head of marketing Ambroise Popper knows that the real volume will come with 802.16e and the big OEMs, and the company has an 'e' development project underway, but he believes there is a two-year opportunity for d+ devices delivering services such as voice over IP and video on demand. Sequans also supports wider channels than Intel, up to 28MHz, which will be important for backhaul applications.

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