WiMAX Club formed to undermine 3G and GSM telcos

Insurgency by wannabe telcos

Comment "The important thing to understand about WiSOA is its members have all had the WiMAX debate," he says. "We have all decided that WiMAM is the future, and we have all committed to roll WiMax out within our businesses." That's the explanation for the launch of the WiMax Spectrum Owners Alliance, offered by Patrick Cruise O’Brien, the group's secretary general, after its launch in Paris.

Today, according to WiSOA itself, is WiMAX Day.

An analysis by WiFi Planet sees this as an an insurgency by the wannabe telcos who don't have 3G licences. They are listed: Unwired Australia, Network Plus Mauritius, UK Broadband, Irish Broadband, Austar Australia/Liberty Group, Telecom New Zealand, WiMAX Telecom Group, Enertel and Woosh Telecom.

According to Robert Liu at TMCNet, its purpose is "to pledge roaming interoperability of next-generation commercial WiMAX networks."

Faultline's Caroline Gabriel says: "It limits its membership to companies that own licenses and operate WiMAX or pre-WiMAX services, contrasting with a previous, defunct attempt at creating a roaming group - the WiMAX Global Roaming Alliance (WGRA) - which was largely based around license exempt WISPs."

And she adds: "The contrast reflects the shift of the WiMAX movement away from such markets and towards carrier class, licensed band deployments, but the fading of the WGRA does not detract from the truth of its objectives," quoting CEO Doug Bonestroo: "We realise that the larger telecom providers have a virtual lock on the 3G marketplace, and that the best way to counter that leverage is with a large group of partners in the US and around the world that are committed to standards-based WiMAX roaming."

The strong Australian influence on this body is reflected in a significant number of Pacific Rim reports, including one from TechWorld's Sandra Rossi, who was rather more enthusiastic than the known facts appear to justify, saying: "The agreement will act as the backbone of a future global WiMAX network and adheres to the 802.16e standards."

Presumably, this was meant to read: "eventual" 802.16e standards" - they aren't defined yet. "Today there are 25,000 roaming agreements worldwide generating just under £10 billion in revenue every year," this report continues, without in any way drawing a distinction between mobile GSM, 3G, or other phone roaming deals, and the putative WiMAX plans.

One of the founders was noted as remarking: "We are not engineers." That seems apparent, especailly from reports emphasising the multi-spectrum nature of the body's remit: "This will cover all WiMAX services and operate acrosss in all WiMAX frequency ranges and will act as the backbone of a future global WiMAX network that adheres to the 802.16e standards," as Stuart Corner of IT Wire reported.

In fact, unless and until WiMAX acquires a universal frequency band worldwide, it's hard to see what value the technology offers to the consumer.

Its value to the industry grouping is less obscure. As one potential member of the club told NewsWireless, "God bless Intel's budget! - and long may they pour resources into WiMAX promotional activities!" - a reference to Intel's recent Amazonian island publicity effort.

There's no record of any Intel contribution to the WiSOA at this point. The chip giant is known to favour a 2.5 GHz spectrum band for universal WiMAX, with acceptance of the probability that the world will, probably, pick a series of different frequencies somewhere in the 3GHz band and up to 4 GHz, and have to compromise somewhat on the "universal" objective at first.

A wise speculator would probably do well to hold all bets on where Intel's money goes, until such time as the WiSOA group drops its inclusion of WiBro, the Korean standard. But if the club members are sensible, they'll not let such prudence discourage them; early cheerleader support will doubtless be noted and approved in Santa Clara.

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