Interoperability an Issue with Early 802.16a Products

Broadband wireless providers are starting to roll out 802.16a-compliant products, but interoperability is still a ways off, according to one company.

Airspan Networks of Boca Raton, Fla., on Friday launched two new products based on the IEEE 802.16a standard for wireless metropolitan area networks (MAN). The AS4030 and the AS3030 are available immediately in North America, Latin America, Europe and China.

Both the point-to-multipoint AS4030 and the point-to-point AS3030 are proprietary implementations of 802.16a, according to Airspan CEO Eric Stonestrom. “We’re using all the attributes of the 802.16a standard, but it’s not capable of interoperability,” he said.

There are no 802.16 products available that are interoperable, Stonestrom said, since chipset makers such as Intel and Fujitsu have not yet started producing chips based on the standard. He said those chipsets should be available in the second half of next year, and products based on them should start rolling out in the beginning of 2005.

Airspan’s new products, which operate in the 3.5GHz and 5.8GHz bands, are aimed at medium and large businesses and offer them the ability to benefit from 802.16a’s spectral efficiency, non line of sight (NLOS) capabilities and low error rates, Stonestrom said.

The AS4030 system can operate in both line-of-sight and NLOS conditions, and provides speeds of up to 45Mbps at distances up to 50 kilometers. A base station is $9,045 and a subscriber unit is $7,025.

Meanwhile, the AS3030 offers speeds up to 45Mbps. It has a range of 10 kilometers in a NLOS setup, and 80 kilometers in a LOS deployment. Stonestrom said the product is around $8,000 per link.

WiMax is expected to jumpstart the wireless broadband industry, making it easier and more affordable for businesses and home users in rural areas to receive high-speed Internet access. According to research firm Allied Business Intelligence, sales of broadband wireless equipment will surpass $1.5 billion by 2008, and the majority of that equipment will be WiMax gear.

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