Intel, Nokia et al launch WiMax Forum

Promoting Wireless Broadband

Intel, Fujitsu and Proxim and a clutch of other tech companies have set up the WiMax Forum to support 802.16, a new standard designed to enable high-speed wireless Net connections over a 30-mile range.

Members of the non-profit group include wireless giant Nokia, Airspan Networks, Alvarion Ltd, Aperto Networks, Ensemble Communications Inc, OFDM Forum and Wi-LAN Inc. The WiMax Forum is set to begin consultations to devise an industry standard for 802.16 gear.

The WiMax Forum claims that it does not see its new technology as a replacement for DSL or other fixed-line broadband Internet technologies. Nor does it claim that the technology will one day replace 802.11b (Wi-Fi), which is becoming increasingly popular in hotels, offices and cafes.

Instead, the alliance says that the new wireless technology could serve as a cheaper "last mile" option to serve homes and businesses that can't already connect to the Web over broadband. Rural areas, for example, could be well served by 802.16.

The new standard, which the IEEE (Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers) modified in January 2003 in its 802.16a amendment covering the 2 GHz to 11 GHz frequencies, does not require line-of-sight to function, unlike most existing fixed-wireless Net services.

The technology provides shared data rates of up to 70 Mbps, which is enough bandwidth to simultaneously support more than 60 businesses with T1-type connectivity and hundreds of homes with DSL-type connectivity using a single sector of a base station, the group said.

"Wireless Internet service providers are deploying wireless broadband access in more than 2,500 underserved markets in the United States by using proprietary technology solutions," said Margaret LaBrecque, WiMax president. "By employing 802.16 solutions, these service providers will increase system performance and reliability while lowering their equipment costs and investment risks."

Still, purchasers of WiMax gear won't be able to use their new equipment to communicate directly with existing Wi-Fi paraphernalia, which could spur a drive among manufacturers to encourage buyers to upgrade. However, that drive will not occur until at least the second half of 2004, when WiMax equipment is expected to become available. Telecoms are not predicted to begin using 802.16 equipment until 2005. © ENN

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