Broadband Wireless Access Comes of Age by open1tup


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    Broadband Wireless Access Comes of Age
    Thanks to cable and DSL, broadband speed has come to a still-
    growing number of businesses, carrying a mix of voice, video and
    Internet services. But the necessary cabling still doesn’t reach
    everywhere; fiber doesn’t run past all businesses, and many
    businesses served by copper are too far away for DSL service to
    work. Meanwhile, Wi-Fi signals only reach a few hundred feet at
    most, making it useful only within close reach of wireless access
    points. Cell phone service reaches more areas, but broadband-
    like 3G (third-generation) service is far from widely available.

              ith that in mind, a combination of broadband
              speed and wireless convenience is an attractive
              concept. Broadband wireless access (BWA)—
    broadband speed communications using radio transmitter/
    receivers—has been around for a number of years. There
    are an estimated five million or more BWA devices in
    use around the world, according to Carlton O’Neal, vice
    president of marketing at broadband wireless access vendor
    Alvarion Inc. “Broadband wireless access has become a
    mainstream access technology—the third leg of the access
    stool with DSL and cable,” O’Neal states.
    But there hasn’t been a standard for broadband wireless
    access technolog y— a necessar y step in ensu ring
    interoperability, which in turn could fuel carrier-based
    broadband wireless service rollouts similar in scale to
    those of cell phones, cable/DSL broadband and Wi-Fi hot
    spots—until now.
    WiM A X (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave
    Access), a standards-based version for broadband wireless,
    is approaching certification, productization and availability,
    coupled with a vendor, carrier and system integrator
    initiative for certification and interoperability. 4

64 • WiMAX
WiMAX • 65
Will WiMAX play a                                                    Putting WiMAX to Work
                                                                       WiMAX service will become available as carrier service,
role in your company’s                                               similar to cellular, cable and DSL. Carriers will set up broadcast
                                                                     base stations, using licensed frequencies, and users will purchase
broadband needs?                                                     service WiMAX CPE to connect to networks and computers.
                                                                     Mobile users may get notebooks, handhelds, handsets and other
                                                                     devices with WiMAX functions embedded, similar to how most
Ask yourself the                                                     of today’s notebook computers include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
                                                                       WiMAX can provide “last mile” broadband access where it’s
following questions:                                                 too expensive or impractical to run wires, such as rural and
                                                                     suburban areas, parts of cities where digging up streets and
                                                                     buildings would be required, and for developing countries that
• Do you have locations without wireless access                      don’t have a traditional telecom infrastructure. It can also be used
  that are unserved or underutilized?                                for backhaul, connecting Wi-Fi hotspots and other locations to
• Will carriers be available in your area?                           network backbones.
                                                                       And WiMAX can also be a cost-effective competitor to DSL and
• Could you set up your own WiMAX facilities?                        cable, points out Michael Finneran, president, dBrn Associates,
• Are there specific needs or opportunities that WiMAX might          Inc., an independent wireless telecommunications consultancy.
                                                                     For businesses, WiMAX’s rapid provisioning and better prices,
  permit? Are there ways that WiMAX may save you money,
                                                                     compared to traditional telco T1 lines, may make a compelling
  or provide you with backup or emergency alternatives?              argument.
• Would broadband wireless, with or without mobility,                  Similarly, companies who have appropriate needs—for example,
  let you create new customer services or even businesses?           those working in remote locations in such industries as mining,
                                                                     construction and agriculture, may set up their own WiMAX base
                                                                     stations, creating private WiMAX networks.
                                                                       “Wireless bridge” applications where a service like WiMAX
  “WiMAX is based on a subset of the IEEE’s 802.16 standard
                                                                     could be used, says Farpoint’s Mathias, include “separation
for Wireless MAN [Metropolitan Area Network], plus some
                                                                     by rights-of-way, natural obstacles and leasehold restrictions,
extensions, just as Wi-Fi is based on the IEEE’s 802.11 standard
                                                                     and to provide connectivity for disaster recovery, redundancy,
plus extensions,” says Craig Mathias, wireless industry analyst
                                                                     throughput augmentation, temporary installations and semi-
and founder of Farpoint Group, a wireless communication
                                                                     planned disruptions.” Point-to-point Wi-Fi is currently used for
consultancy.                                                         some of these bridging applications.
  WiMAX is intended to handle voice, data and video, with              Testing for WiMAX has begun in Argentina, Ireland and
Quality of Service (QoS) appropriate to support multiple             Scotland for use in sparsely populated areas where cable
applications, including voice service, “leased lines,” virtual       installation is difficult. Sprint and MCI have begun WiMAX
private networks (VPNs) and data services. It operates in a mix      trial deployments in selected cities; Sprint and Motorola have
of licensed and license-exempt spectra, meaning some frequencies     announced joint WiMAX testing plans. Wireless Internet service
and areas will be owned by carriers, as in the case of cell phone    providers (ISPs), including Clearwire, Speakeasy, Aiirmesh
and television services, while others will be available to any and   Communications and TowerStream, currently offer broadband
all, like Wi-Fi, CB radio and walkie-talkies.                        wireless access using a mix of WiMAX, pre-WiMAX and older/
  According to the WiMAX Forum (see sidebar on page 67), in a        proprietary solutions.
typical cell radius deployment of about two to six miles, WiMAX        Mobile WiMAX applications range from provisioning
systems can be expected to deliver capacity of up to 40Mbps per      emergency response vehicles to mobile users needing more
channel. That’s enough to provide T1-speed connections for           bandwidth and/or QoS than what is currently offered by cellular
dozens to hundreds of businesses. For mobile WiMAX networks,         services for video or multimedia conferencing.
users can expect up to 15Mbps capacity in a typical two-mile-
radius cell, possibly leading to broadband “MetroZones.” (The        The Necessary Equipment
data rate depends on the channel bandwidth; for example,               WiM A X base stations will be substantially bigger than
40Mbps would require a 20MHz channel.)                               Wi-Fi access points, as they will be transmitting signals for
  The initial version of WiMAX is a “fixed” technology, meaning       much greater distances. And they’ll be more expensive, most
the expectation is that customer premises equipment (CPE) will       likely in the $10,000 to $100,000 range—luckily, these will
stay in one place, or at least won’t be roaming from one service     only be required hardware for companies setting up a private
cell to another.                                                     WiMAX network.
  Later versions of WiMAX, implementing IEEE 802.16e,                  WiMAX CPE have standard Ethernet connections; eventually,
will be able to support CPE in motion and capable of roaming         smaller WiMAX CPE will have USB connectors, fit in a PCMCIA
across cells or sustaining a session, similar to traveling across    or CF (CompactFlash) slot, or be embedded directly, as Wi-Fi is into
cell tower or Wi-Fi access point service areas—very useful for the   most notebook computers today. Intel says that the next generation
constant traveler.                                                   of its Centrino chip will incorporate both Wi-Fi and WiMAX.

66 • WiMAX
  Expect the first generation of equipment to be outdoor-                Mathias. “And we haven’t had a chance to try the products and
installable “subscriber stations,” like a small satellite dish; these   service yet; we’ll know more by the end of 2005.”
should be available in late 2005 or early 2006, and cost around           As for the mobile-oriented version of WiMAX, “Mobility is
$350. Second-generation WiMAX products, likely available in             the key application for wireless service,” Mathias acknowledges.
2006, will be smaller and easier to install—indoor WiMAX                “Given other competitors—especially cellular—what will
modems, similar to cable and DSL modems, to be priced in the            WiMAX do to obtain market advantage?”
mid-$200 range.                                                           “WiMAX looks great on paper,” agrees dBrn Associates’
  And in the 2006/2007 timeframe, third-generation WiMAX                Finneran. “[But] the markets will be the true test. Price, capacity
products will be integrated into notebooks, handhelds and other         and ease-of-implementation will be major factors.”
portable devices, and cost around $100 apiece. Intel expects              Farpoint’s Mathias currently sees fixed WiMAX as dominating
WiMAX capability to be built into notebook computers in 2006,           the broadband wireless access business for point-to-multipoint,
followed by handsets in 2007.                                           possibly also for point-to-point. Mobile WiMAX, he feels, faces
  In North America, the big question is whether there’s a viable        significant competitive hurdles. “But the WiMAX industry
market for WiMAX. “There’s already a lot of competition in              has a lot of smart, committed players, and marketing is just as
wired and in non-WiMAX wireless,” points out Farpoint’s                 important as technology.”

      The WiMAX Forum
      The march towards WiMAX product availability is being aided
      by the WiMAX Forum, WiMAX’s equivalent to what the
      Wi-Fi Alliance is to 802.11. The WiMAX Forum is a non-profit
      organization formed by equipment/component manufacturers,
      systems integrators and service providers in 2001 “to promote
      the adoption of IEEE 802.16-compliant equipment by operators of
      broadband wireless access systems.”
      The Forum’s 230-plus members include such vendors as
      Airspan, Alvarion, Aperto, Fujitsu, Intel, Motorola, Nokia and
      WiLAN, along with service providers including British Telecom,
      France Telecom, Qwest Communications, Reliance Telecom and
      XO Communications.

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                                                                                                                               WiMAX • 67

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