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Strong potential for WiMAX

WiMAX won praise from both sides of the Atlantic on Wednesday as ABI Research suggested that the technology has a bright future wherever technology neutral spectrum is available in Europe, while a survey commissioned by WiMAX proponent Motorola confirmed that there is high consumer demand for mobile broadband in the US.

European WiMAX networks are being deployed in most countries using spectrum in the 3.5GHz band. However, these deployments are mostly confined to offering fixed wireless services. The mobile version of WiMAX (IEEE 802.16e-2005) is also being deployed at 3.5GHz and has been trialed in the Netherlands using 2.6GHz spectrum, which in Europe has been earmarked as the UMTS extension band.

The European Commission and several national regulators, including Norway, Sweden, and the UK, want this situation to change, as does the WiMAX Forum. The ITU has also agreed that OFDM-based technologies should be included in the IMT2000 standard. This places mobile WiMAX on the same footing as 3G when it comes to using the 3G extension bands and potentially, existing 3G bands.

“This is a good sign for technology neutrality becoming the accepted approach for spectrum auctions in the future,” said ABI Research analyst Ian Cox. “Mobile WiMAX products will start to appear in 2007 and can be used in unpaired spectrum, giving them an opportunity not available to UMTS.”

Meanwhile, in the US, Motorola confirmed what most wireless service providers are counting on – 57 per cent of internet users think it’s important that wireless broadband service be available wherever they may roam.

“Consumers clearly want to eliminate broadband cables or wires to access high speed internet connectivity,” said Fred Wright, senior vice president and general manager for Home & Networks Mobility at Motorola.

If Wright’s assertions come to pass it would be great news for Motorola and other suppliers of WiMAX kit. As the GSM Association’s CEO Rob Conway pointed out during a recent press conference: “WiMAX didn’t come from the operator community, it came out of companies like Intel. Intel is in the business of selling chipsets, and it puts loads of money behind hyping WiMAX.”


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