WiMAX 2 Heads Toward Standardization

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With WiMAX provider Clearwire about to starting testing rival LTE technology, standardization is drawing near for WiMAX 2, a wireless networking technology faster than either LTE or first generation WiMAX.

The task group within the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) which is working on the standard for WiMAX 2, IEEE 802.11m, took major action at its meeting this summer.

Device manufacturers and chip makers are also working both within and outside the IEEE to spur quicker adoption of WiMAX 2.

Completion of the IEEE’s 802.11m standard for WiMAX 2 is now likely in either late 2010 or early 2011, according to various industry estimates, with the first deployments anticipated in 2012.

Clearwire might Combine LTE with WiMAX
Yet AT&T and Verizon are both slated to start deployments of LTE in 2011, and Clearwire plans to start testing LTE next fall as it looks to the possible creation of a “multi-mode WiMAX/LTE network.” Clearwire believes that it can deliver a faster LTE deployment than its competitors because it has more bandwidth.

Despite the impending arrival of WiMAX 2, Clearwire will work with both TDD (time-division-duplex) and FDD (frequency-division duplex) LTE technologies during the test in Phoenix. With FDD, Clearwire could use two bands of 20 MHz each, while other operators would be limited to 10MHz bands, said Clearwire CTO John Saw, during a recent conference call with analysts.

WiMAX 2 equipment, when it does come along, must be backward-compatible with first generation WiMAX networks now being operated by providers like Clearwire and its partner Sprint, according to the current draft of the IEEE 201.11m standard, which is still subject to approval.

WiMAX 2 Could be Just Around the Corner
It doesn’t appear that final approval can be that far away, however. At a July meeting in San Diego, Task Group m (TGm), the group within IEEE that’s working on the faster WiMAX 2 standard, requested conditional approval to proceed to a Sponsor Ballot, according to a status report on the IEEE Web site.

Under IEEE procedures, an IEEE draft or project is only ready for a Sponsor Ballot when it has completed its working group development.

“After the Sponsor Ballot process is complete, the Sponsor will move the project toward final review by Revcom (the IEEE-SA Standards Board, Standards Review Committee) and approval by the IEEE-SA Standards Board before it is published,” according to the IEEE’s posted policy.

Standardization of new technologies can be a very long process, involving multiple rounds of votes and resolutions of members’ comments. For its part, Task Group m has been working on WiMAX 2 since at least 2003.

WiMAX 2, however, has very strong backing right now from industry leaders such as Intel, Motorola and Samsung, which are also now working together in an outside group — the WiMAX 2 Collaboration Initiative (WCI) – just formed in April to help accelerate WiMAX 2 deployment.

 

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