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IEEE Group Forms New Standard For Wireless Networking

The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers' Standard Board last week formally approved IEEE Standard 802.16 ("Air Interface for Fixed Broadband Wireless Access Systems") laying the groundwork for what could turn into widespread deployment of 10 to 66 GHz wireless metropolitan area networks (MANs) as an economical method of high-speed "last-mile" connection to public networks.

"The new WirelessMAN standard is a groundbreaking development that changes the landscape for providers and customers of high-speed networks," said Roger Marks, chairman of the 802.16 Working Group on Broadband Wireless Access.

The 802.16 standard creates a platform on which to build a broadband wireless industry using high-rate systems that install rapidly without extensive metropolitan cable infrastructures. It was created in a two-year, open-consensus process that involved hundreds of engineers from the world's leading operators and vendors, the IEEE explained in a press release.

If successful, the standard could be a boon for companies such as Runcom Technologies Ltd. of Israel, which has been developing proposals for voice and data transmissions using Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) as a modulation scheme -- the same one used by 802.11 devices. However, unlike the current 802.11b specification, 802.16 advocates argue that the higher-quality standard is better suited for interactive TV.

"The standard makes highly efficient use of bandwidth and supports voice, video and data applications with the quality that customers demand," Marks said.

The standard enables interoperability among devices from multiple manufacturers. It includes a medium access control layer (MAC) that supports multiple physical layer specifications. The physical layer is optimized for bands from 10 to 66 GHz. Extensions to the 2 to 11 GHz bands are expected to be completed next summer in the Working Group's 802.16a amendment.

The global IEEE 802.16 WirelessMAN air interface standard is the first broadband wireless access standard from an accredited standards body. It will be published by January 2002. Until then, the approved draft can be purchased on the IEEE's Web site.