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WiMax group acts to head off surprises

Tough talking, but still little progress

After last-minute clarifications to a standard delayed its first product certifications, the WiMax Forum has asked a task group of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) to put off clarifications that may come for the upcoming mobile WiMax standard, according to the head of the forum.

As the forum raced to meet a forecast for certifications of WiMax wireless broadband kit by the end of last year, the IEEE body that created the 802.16-2004 standard brought out a set of clarifications that made the industry group write several new tests, WiMax Forum marketing director Jeff Orr said on Tuesday. That was the biggest cause of a delay that has held up certification of the first fixed WiMax products, which is still in the works, he said.

That won't happen with the 802.16e standard, which will define WiMax gear that allows high-speed mobile broadband access, WiMax Forum President Ron Resnick said yesterday.

"We've told them, 'Don't do this to us again,'" Resnick said in an interview on the sidelines of the Wireless Communications Association International Symposium & Business Expo in San Jose. The 802.16e standard was approved in draft form late last year and is expected to be ratified later this year.

The forum expects to certify the first mobile WiMax products by the end of 2006, Resnick said. Any clarifications following the ratification of 802.16e that would interrupt certification testing will be held back until after certified products have hit the market, he said. Any adjustments made at that point could be implemented with field software upgrades to products, Resnick added.

The set of details that interrupted test preparation last November, called a corrigendum, didn't change the 802.16-2004 standard but defined parts of it more precisely, Orr said on Tuesday. The forum could have set aside the corrigendum for the time being and gone ahead with testing, but the work would have had to be done later anyway, he said.

The first mobile WiMax products to be certified will support mobile use, Resnick said. However, one WiMax vendor executive told the conference that full roaming and handoff capabilities may not be available until 2010.

"There's a lot of work ahead of us," said Reza Ahy, chairman and chief executive officer of Aperto Networks, speaking on a panel at the event.

Intel, a big cheerleader for mobile WiMax, told attendees it is on schedule to introduce Centrino wireless chipsets for notebook PCs next year. Only wireless technologies such as WiMax can close the "digital divide" between rich and poor countries and communities, said Sean Maloney, executive vice president of Intel and general manager of its Mobility Group.

"There is an aching need for the deployment of WiMax and these [other wireless] technologies," Maloney said.


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