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Aperto's Roadmap to WiMAX

Earlier this week, Aperto Networks announced its roadmap for WiMAX Forum certification and commercial release of its WiMAX-compliant wireless systems. The company also stated that its new WiMAX products will be able to coexist seamlessly with legacy Aperto PacketWave systems in the same cell and sector.

Aperto plans to demonstrate its first WiMAX products, and to make them available for interoperability testing, by December of this year. The company will then present the new equipment at the WiMAX Forum's Plugfest in January of 2005, and will make its WiMAX products commercially available by mid-2005.

"Our overarching goal is to be a leader in achieving WiMAX certification, with a seamless path for both overlay and migration of our current customers' operations," says Reza Ahy, Aperto Networks' Chairman and CEO.

Alan Menezes, Aperto's Vice President of Marketing, says one key benefit of the new systems will be multi-vendor interoperability. "Prior to this, all the key vendors were designing their own chipsets for their products," he says. "With WiMAX, you have a number of chip partners, such as Intel, Fujitsu and others, developing chipsets. This enables system vendors to focus much more on the system side of things."

In addition to freeing Aperto to focus on system development, the fact that established chip vendors are developing WiMAX chipsets, Menezes says, will have a direct impact on costs. "It will enable very low cost CPE," he says. "So you'll start to see what also happened in the wireless LAN 802.11 market, where there was a very steep drop in CPE price."

The new systems will not be able to interoperate with existing Aperto wireless products, but they will be able to coexist in the same location, and make use of the same back end systems -- allowing for gradual implementation by carriers.

"Service providers will be able to add WiMAX base stations to existing sites to take advantage of additional capacity as well as the lower cost of subscriber units," Menezes says.

By synchronizing base stations, the company will enable its new WiMAX equipment and its legacy PacketWave equipment to coexist. "They won't interfere with each other, and they will leverage the same provisioning and management systems as well," Menezes says. "So all of the back end will be the same -- we have that today across the 2.5, 3.5, and 5.8 bands."

Menezes says most service providers who are considering deploying WiMAX technology are primarily concerned with ensuring a smooth transition. Key to doing so, he says, is the back end solution, not necessarily the WiMAX equipment itself -- and since the same back end systems can run both old and new equipment, transitioning between them should be relatively straightforward.

While there will be significant differences between current wireless products and future WiMAX solutions, Menezes says the technology has been improving gradually enough that won't be a huge shift for providers to make. "The nice thing about it is that a good portion of the technology is already out there," he says. "It's already been tried in the field, in existing systems that are deployed today."