RealTime IT News

Real WiMax Products Now Available

After writing "actual WiMax products don't yet exist" as a caveat in so many articles about 802.16 technology, it is hard to believe it's true: the WiMax Forum announced this week that products actually exist now that have that consortium's seal of approval for interoperability.

The products consist of three base stations (Aperto Networks' PacketMAX 5000, Redline Communications' RedMAX AN-100U and SEQUANS Communications' SQN2010 SoC) and one subscriber station: Wavesat's miniMAX customer premise equipment (CPE).

Not all of these products are necessarily something that will go to market — for example, Wavesat and SEQUANS are chipmakers, so the products here are likely only reference designs for products other OEMs could make. The Forum won't be doing testing of individual components; only complete products.

"This is the first of many announcements," says Jeff Orr, Director of Marketing for the Forum and one of a half-dozen full-time employees running the consortium. "We won't be doing them one by one, but we have a queue of 26 behind these with confirmed testing time slots."

Cetecom in Malaga, Spain remains the groups official test lab, but Orr says they will expand into other locations over time. "To kick off, we needed focus," he says. "The plan is to have labs in all major regions of the world, so time and travel is not a factor."

The companies above, along with future test candidates, will be able to use the WiMax mark as part of their collateral marketing, probably to show up on Web sites or datasheets, since you won't be buying these product on the shelf at Best Buy. The WiMax Forum's Web site will also feature an online  showcase of products to facilitate easy identification of those with certified status, with a database customers can query to find the right certified WiMax products for their region and frequency band. (The current certified products run in the 3.5 GHz radio frequency band.)

WiMax testing is currently only for fixed products supporting the IEEE 802.16-2004 standard, as well as the ETSI HiperMAN standard. The December ratification of the 802.16e standard for mobile WiMax  by the IEEE means that the Forum will be gearing up for testing the those products over the next year. "By fourth quarter, we should have a lab that could start receiving products for validation," says Orr. "How quickly that'll happen is a guess." Testing won't be exactly the same, however, as not only is it fixed vs. mobile, but the two specs (.16-2004 vs. .16e) use completely different modulation schemes, so they won't interoperate without a lot of vendor tweaks that would have to be outside of the standard.

Orr thinks it's more likely products that would support both fixed and mobile would be multi-radio units, like products today that support Wi-Fi and cellular technologies.

While the fixed WiMax products certified this week are more likely to be used as broadband backhaul connection replacements, the standards are quickly coming to client systems. WiBro, South Korea's flavor of 802.16e, will be in laptops and handhelds this year — in fact, Wavesat, one of the companies in this first round of WiMax certifications, is making chips already for SK Telecom's WiBro deployment.