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Recent Entries

Motorola Announces WiMax Dongle for Laptops
Sprint, Clearwire Deployment Updates: Late, Later
Commercial WiMax Launches in September in Baltimore
Intel Calls for WiMax, LTE Convergence
Schools Profit from Clearwire, Sprint License Purchases
Official Sprint/Clearwire Details Out
Sprint, Clearwire in Imminent $12b Deal
Sprint WiMax Head Says His Tech Here, Now, Works
Mobile WiMax Profile for Korean Frequencies First for Certification
Sprint Xohm Network Delayed; Backhaul the Issue

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Category: Mobile WiMax

September 23, 2008

Motorola Announces WiMax Dongle for Laptops

By Glenn Fleishman

Motorola will offer the USBw 100 for multiple bands: The dongle, expect to ship in 2008’s fourth quarter, will allow laptop users to access WiMax networks in the most popular bands: 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz, and 3.5 GHz. The MIMO USB adapter doesn’t have an announced price. usb100w.jpgA dongle extends the practical utility of WiMax networks, because the vast majority of laptops won’t have WiMax built in or available as an internal option until sometime in 2009. PC Cards and ExpressCards are another option—Motorola already has a PC Card—but an increasing number of laptops eschew card-expansion slots for size, cost, and practical reasons. Few people need them these days. A dongle is not a thing of beauty, but it’s a great way to get an antenna out of a case and at an extension from a laptop.

Posted by Glennf at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2008

Sprint, Clearwire Deployment Updates: Late, Later

By Glenn Fleishman

MuniWireless has the scoop on how WiMax deployments from Sprint and Clearwire are progressing: Intel is late on its silicon, so Centrino2 won’t feature WiMax built in, as was planned for the last couple of years, I thought. Clearwire and Sprint will keep operating separately until the fourth quarter, assuming they can close their joint venture that will be called Clearwire, but feature Sprint majority ownership and Sprint’s 4G assets transferred to the new entity. Sprint will launch WiMax in Baltimore in September with Chicago and D.C. to follow; Clearwire in Portland by fourth quarter, then Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Grand Rapids, Mich. Grand Rapids, you may ask—why Grand Rapids? That’s the one municipal contract proposal that Clearwire answered and won in competition with Wi-Fi service providers. It’s been a testbed since, as I understand it, for providing more comprehensive services as the city had a requirement for coverage area and other parameters

Posted by Glennf at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2008

Commercial WiMax Launches in September in Baltimore

By Glenn Fleishman

Sprint’s CEO announces the commercial launch at trade show: Dan Hesse said that Sprint’s WiMax offering will first launch in Baltimore, followed “later” (no time given) in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Apparently, no details on pricing, production speeds, and so forth. In testing, 2 to 4 Mbps downstream speeds were used.

Posted by Glennf at 3:44 PM | Comments (0)

June 3, 2008

Intel Calls for WiMax, LTE Convergence

By Glenn Fleishman

Intel’s sales and marketing head calls for unified WiMax, LTE for 4G: Sean Maloney has been a driving force behind WiMax, and he makes a good point. With Qualcomm-driven standards not in the running for U.S. and European cell data evolution—nor in many other parts of the world—there’s not much of a patent or single-company-owned technology debate here. Really, it’s a question about evolution and interoperability. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon are committed to LTE; Sprint and Clearwire to WiMax. WiMax technology is available today; LTE could be in the 2010-2012 timeframe for real deployments. WiMax can push 10 to 20 Mbps or more depending on spectrum allocation and other issues; LTE is estimated to offer 50 to 100 Mbps downstream. Maloney said 80 percent of the two technologies were the same and Motorola says it will reuse 85 percent of what was developed for WiMax in its LTE design. Sounds very rational. With Intel’s backing, carriers might go for it, because it could mean having every laptop shipped already containing an LTE receiver.

Posted by Glennf at 11:45 AM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2008

Schools Profit from Clearwire, Sprint License Purchases

By Glenn Fleishman

The LA Times uncovers a fact that those of us following WiMax know: schools are reaping a huge payday and other help from their spectrum licenses: The LA Times has a lot of specifics about how academic institutions, granted licenses for distance learning and broadcasting, have managed to take in hundreds of millions of dollars that benefit their students and campuses. The 2.5 GHz band that these schools hold geographic licenses to can be leased to commercial entities under rules set by the FCC to make better use of the band. Some of the sublessors have paid for schools to move broadcasts from analog to digital, improving their service and freeing up bandwidth, as well as licensing fees. The paper estimates that 1,400 agreements have been signed to lease spectrum.

Posted by Glennf at 1:08 PM | Comments (0)

May 7, 2008

Official Sprint/Clearwire Details Out

By Glenn Fleishman

The press release ships: The new $14.5b (estimated) joint venture between Clearwire and Sprint will be called Clearwire. That’s another ego win on top of the financial win for one Mister Craig McCaw. Clearwire “2” will be headed by current CEO Ben Wolff, and the president will be Sprint’s very smart CTO and mobile broadband chief Barry West. They’ll headquarter in Kirkland, Wash., with R&D in Herndon, Virg. Sprint will own 51 percent, Clearwire 27 percent, and the new investors 22 percent. Their new announced plan is to pass 120 to 140m people by 2010, which is fairly modest, but Sprint will be retaining its current 3G business. Clearwire, Sprint, and all the cable investors announced 3G and 4G sales deals that will allow all partners to resell all 3G and 4G services. That was apparently an earlier missing piece for cable operators, who didn’t want to invest in a service that wouldn’t be rolled out across their entire territories for some time.

Posted by Glennf at 7:44 AM | Comments (0)

May 6, 2008

Sprint, Clearwire in Imminent $12b Deal

By Glenn Fleishman

Finally: The Wall Street Journal reports that a joint venture is almost ready to announce that will combine Clearwire with Sprint’s wireless broadband division in a $12b company that will receive an infusion of $3.2b from outside firms, including Intel, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Google. The deal could be announced tomorrow. The cable involvement is clear: Cable providers may have a path to a 50 Mbps broadband vision (a standard that’s rolling out now), but they need mobile partners for data and voice, and Sprint has been that partner for the four big MSO (multiple system operators). This deal would validate the WiMax approach, and ensure that a national network would be built with enough spectrum in each market to provide the greatest possible bandwidth. It would be yet another win for Craig McCaw, of course, the man who essentially dictates through his ability to be smart ahead of the market what wireless voice and broadband will look like tomorrow, always tomorrow.

Posted by Glennf at 3:34 PM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2008

Sprint WiMax Head Says His Tech Here, Now, Works

By Glenn Fleishman

Sprint’s Xohm division head Barry West tells the Wireless Communications Association that WiMax is real: He points out that critics that are adopting LTE (Long Term Evolution) are signing on to a standard that won’t be deployed for some time (2 to 4 years, depending on the firm and what you believe).

Posted by Glennf at 3:26 PM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2008

Mobile WiMax Profile for Korean Frequencies First for Certification

By Glenn Fleishman

The WiMax Forum certifies first mobile WiMax products: However, they’re all for the 2.3 GHz profile, used in South Korea, not the 2.5 GHz profile which will be used by Sprint Nextel and Clearwire in the US, nor the 3.5 GHz profile used in Europe and beyond. Eight devices were certified. Certification for devices using 2.5 GHz is coming later this year.

Posted by Glennf at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

April 4, 2008

Sprint Xohm Network Delayed; Backhaul the Issue

By Glenn Fleishman

Sprint pushes back its WiMax network launch: The production version of the network, currently in trials, won’t launch until the summer at earliest in their first markets. Unstrung is saying that backhaul to WiMax base station sites is the issue, not the underlying technology. Which I have to say makes sense, given that a fair amount of the technology is actively in production.

Posted by Glennf at 11:50 AM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2008

WiMax Launch in Wisconsin First in Nation with Voice, Data

By Glenn Fleishman

Madison, Wisc., gets one of first full-scale, full-on WiMax deployments: TDS Telecom (1.2m voice lines, 171K DSL lines), a sister company with US Cellular (6m customers, 26 states), rolls out licensed mobile WiMax, albeit in a fixed configuration. The service covers 55,000 households and 10,000 businesses in Madison with service at up to 6 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. The combination of voice and data makes this a first in the U.S., although there are other early WiMax data networks deployed.

Residential service is $50/mo. for 2 Mbps symmetrical with phone service, $55 for 4 Mbps, and $60 for 6 Mbps. Dropping phone service cuts $5 per month, and there’s a $10/mo. bundle discount for the first three months. Business service starts at $129/mo. based on contract length. The WiMax receiver will have a two-hour continuously charged battery backup to preserve voice and data during brief power outages. No mention is made of setup costs or minimum residential service term commitments in the pricing document.

They have seven towers deployed, although the precise number in use is a little confusing: a map shows five running, two still in progress, while the press release mentions six towers at one point and seven at another. Each tower has a two-mile radius of coverage, they say, while their licensed are will allow them a total 35 mile radius around Madison. They’re using Alvarion 802.16e 4Motion equipment, but in a fixed not mobile configuration at launch; the hardware is upgradable later to seamless handoffs.

The company’s press release says that service installation requires a visit from a technician. This is typically the case with all new broadband. When I had DSL installed by then-US West in 1997, it meant a truckroll. Just a couple years later, self-install was the name of the game. The rule in telcos—that I read in a DSL textbook, of all places—is that services have to move to 95 percent self-install, 5 percent truckroll, at worst to become profitable and correctly priced offerings.

Posted by Glennf at 2:08 PM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2008

Sprint Launches Xohm Mobile WiMax Service Next Week

By Glenn Fleishman

Network World is reporting that businesses will be able to buy the unmarketed service in three cities starting on Tuesday, 15-Jan.: The three cities are Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Offerings will be for businesses only. Pricing isn’t noted. Full-scale commercial deployment comes later in 2008.

Posted by Glennf at 9:56 AM | Comments (0)

January 9, 2008

Concerns Aired about Lack of Mobile WiMax Consumer Gear Near Launch

By Glenn Fleishman

Even though you can’t use a mobile WiMax network in the U.S. today, analysts are concerned about the lack of hardware: The first production networks are slated to launch in weeks and months, and the Associated Press says only a CPE (home adapter) from Zyxel and a PC Card from ZTE are available. Motorola told me some weeks ago their CPEs would be available in small quantities at launch, moving to mass production during 2008; I’m not sure why they didn’t ramp up in preparation, and they’re not mentioned in this article.

A few laptops and tablet PCs will include WiMax, including the Asus Eee ($1000, 2nd half 2008), OQO (no date or price), and a Nokia tablet (sometime in 2008, no price).

Given the small initial audience that will subscribe, and the newness of the technology, it’s not strange to have so few items, but I would have thought Sprint would have ensured a few CPE models were ready. This article may understate what will actually be available.

Sprint’s strategy is to allow consumers to buy any compatible device and then pay a fee to use it on the network. Prices haven’t yet been set for network service.

Posted by Glennf at 7:59 AM | Comments (1)

December 11, 2007

Sprint Nextel Soft Launches WiMax for Testing in Three Cities

By Glenn Fleishman

Sprint Nextel will light up mobile WiMax in Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., initially limited to company employees for testing: Within a few days, the network will go live in the downtowns of those three cities, and then extend outwards based on where high usage is already found for cell data networks. Customer trial start in first quarter 2008, and full commercial services in the second quarter. This is an important milestone given other uncertainties about Sprint’s future.

Posted by Glennf at 1:20 PM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2007

Sprint Turns Down SK Telecom, Private Equity Investment

By Glenn Fleishman

The Wall Street Journal reports that Sprint Nextel said no to $5b and a return of Nextel’s CEO from SK Telecom, Providence Equity Partners: The investment would have been in the form of convertible securities at a 20 to 30 percent premium over Sprint’s current stock price, and would have carried the return of Tim Donohue, who had headed Nextel when it was acquired by Sprint, and was chairman until 2005. The combined firm is worth slightly more than Nextel’s value when acquired, but Sprint has also sold some assets, notably its landline division.

SK Telecom is working on its own WiMax network, with the compatible WiBro flavor deployed (but with few customers) in South Korea. It also has an interest in its former division SK Teletech (now SKY), which makes advanced CDMA handsets that would work on Sprint’s network.

Further, SK Telecom is now the majority partner in the joint venture with EarthLink called Helio, which brings those selfsame advanced handsets into the hands of American youth (primarily) as an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) buying most or perhaps all its minutes and data transfer from…Sprint Nextel.

The Sprint board said no, and declined a face-to-face, even.

Posted by Glennf at 3:44 PM | Comments (1)

November 15, 2007

Clearwire's PC Card: Awfully Fast, Good in Seattle

By Glenn Fleishman

A few days of testing with Clearwire’s new PC Card offering leaves me optimistic about mobile WiMax: While the card uses Expedience, the pre-WiMax offering that Clearwire’s former hardware division uses for all its equipment, I saw performance higher than using any other form of wireless networking except Wi-Fi in a fixed indoor location in my testing. I drove around Seattle and used the card in a car, with a booster, without, and in indoor locations. In most cases, I saw at or near the top rate. With the included external antenna, I was able to get over 1.6 Mbps downstream. Upstream rates are, as promised, about 256 Kbps or slower, and that’s something they need to improve.

Clearwire Pc Card MediumWith full-on, true mobile WiMax expected to deliver substantially higher rates for mobile and nomadic purposes, it’s possible Clearwire has a winner. Read my full review for how I expect that to play out and more detail about how the card works. (The review appears as part of a series of items I’m writing for a group blog on holiday gift gadgets.)

Posted by Glennf at 2:52 PM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2007

McCaw Profile, Future of WiMax in the Wall Street Journal

By Glenn Fleishman

Seemingly very on-target profile of Clearwire head Craig McCaw, the founder or inspiration for much of what the cell industry is doing today: Even though the best-known, but not only well-known McCaw is a local, I forget how many pies he’s had fingers in. This Wall Street Journal article has a nice box that explains how he either started or was involved in every major cell operator in the U.S. except Verizon.

Which is why Clearwire can raise billions, despite his failed satellite phone effort, and why he’s moving forward at a crazy rate. It’s also why he was able to negotiate the $300m deal with AT&T to grab a huge hunk of the BellSouth spectrum holdings they were obliged (through his constant lobbying) to spin off as part of the merger.

I tested Clearwire’s pre-WiMax PC Card offering this week, and was rather pleasantly surprised at its consistent performance and high throughput.

Posted by Glennf at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

November 1, 2007

Sprint Nextel May Spin Off WiMax Division...or Not

By Glenn Fleishman

Wall Street Journal spells out that Sprint Nextel has put many options on the table for WiMax rollout, but canceling it appears unlikely: The takeaway here is that Sprint might merge with Clearwire through a spinoff that would form a separate public company, look for specific investment in the WiMax unit, purchase Clearwire—or just sign the darned contract with Clearwire for building a complementary network footprint. Sprint is trying to get its act together in preparation of the entrance of a new permanent CEO; they don’t want to stand still while they engage in a search.

Posted by Glennf at 3:33 PM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2007

Cisco Buys Mobile WiMax Equipment Maker Navini

By Glenn Fleishman

Navini bought by Cisco for $330m: The deal puts late-entrant Cisco yet again into the fray of another wireless “revolution.” Cisco bought Airespace in 2005 to assume one of the top positions in the wireless LAN switch market. The Navini acquisition gives them worldwide customers of mobile WiMax technology before the big rollout here in the US by Sprint Nextel (we still assume) and Clearwire. Navini has a range of non-WiMax products, too, which work in popular frequency bands worldwide, and come with CPEs and PC Cards for end users.

Posted by Glennf at 12:48 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2007

How MSM Incorrectly Explains WiMax

By Glenn Fleishman

This isn’t a critique specifically of this New York Times reporter, but it’s a good example of how WiMax isn’t understood or explained correctly: WiMax has a set of distinct advantages—advantages that have yet to be proven in the market and in physical reality—that are generally poorly explained by those outside the industry. This was true in Wi-Fi’s early days, when its attributes and abilities were often distorted through a combination of company hype and lack of technical knowledge on the part of reporters. As Wi-Fi hit mainstream, and reporters became familiar with its limits through hands-on use and a greater body of more understandable knowledge, reporting became more accurate, too.

In this Times article, Victoria Shannon repeats a few misconceptions that were spread early on.

“WiMax, a wireless technology that allows Internet and other data connections across much broader areas than Wi-Fi…” Not true. WiMax is a more flexible way to cover the same area, potentially at lower cost relative to bandwidth, and at much greater reliability. Wi-Fi can, in fact, cover any given area, but finding the right places to mount receivers, which must necessarily be of much greater number because of the lower power limits, is quite hard.

The ITU endorsement this article covers—802.16 being added to the IMT-2000 family of 3G standards—“opens the way for many of the union’s member countries to devote a part of the public radio spectrum to WiMax,” she writes. Not quite. It opens the way for the member countries to use existing 3G spectrum for WiMax. Before this, WiMax wouldn’t have been allowed in pure 3G allocations. New spectrum can be allotted, too, of course.

“Unlike Wi-Fi, this mobile Internet technology can hand off a signal from antenna to antenna, thus allowing a device to hold a connection while in motion.” Those are two different issues. Wi-Fi can also hand off signals among base stations (not antennas, though I see why that term is used here), but it’s not designed for mobility. There’s been a lot of work in that regard to allow people talking on handsets while walking around in a company setting to not have a pause or drop the call. But that’s a far cry from the WiMax’s design, which is supposed to handle automotive connections.

“WiMax potentially can move data at 70 megabits a second across 65 kilometers, or 40 miles. Current fixed-line broadband connections have speeds of about 2 megabits a second.” A strange set of comparisons. To work at 70 Mbps, WiMax would need to use an extremely large spectrum hunk, and it’s unlikely that any provider would deploy in that fashion. It’s a design maximum, not how it will be deployed. The distance and speed are interrelated properties: You can not obtain 70 Mbps at 40 miles from a base station. The other part of this odd comparison, is that wireline broadband can achieve 50 Mbps or faster in the same theoretical, not-yet-deployed world in which WiMax is being discussed. There are cable standards in the field and DSL that’s not far off that can reach those rates. A more typical current range of rates is 3 Mbps to 8 Mbps for DSL and cable.

What’s interested about WiMax, that’s never mentioned in mainstream business reporting, is that it’s used typically in exclusively licensed spectrum for highly coordinated purposes. Wi-Fi is a free-for-all; WiMax is a pretty ballet. WiMax allows extraordinarily granular provisioning of the data among customers akin to how cell networks work; future cell networks will work much more like WiMax, too.

So it’s the flexibility, provisioning, and mobility that makes mobile WiMax a technology that many providers are planning to roll out or considering. It can be used at very high speeds, if you have the spectrum, over fairly decent areas; it can be used at lower speeds at great distances, reducing infrastructure costs to go a long way in one direction; it can be provisioned on the fly to deliver specific amounts of bandwidth to specific customers; and it works in moving vehicles as well.

Posted by Glennf at 7:14 AM | Comments (2)

October 18, 2007

WiMax Gets ITU Nod as Advanced Radio Standard

By Glenn Fleishman

Mobile WiMax’s inclusion in a global wireless broadband standard means that it can be used over standard bands approved for this purpose: IMT-2000 is a set of five radio standards linked to other elements that have been approved by many different authorities for use over advanced wireless bands in their various countries and regions. The two most popular are W-CDMA (GSM 3G) and CDMA2000 (CDMA 3G). By gaining ITU approval for mobile WiMax (really, 802.16 in this context), this dramatically increases the odds that it can be deployed more widely by not requiring special approval or specific bands. It also provides mobile WiMax as a migration possibility for carriers that haven’t yet deployed 3G.

Early mobile WiMax profiles from the WiMax Forum cover 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz, and 3.5 GHz, the most common currently available bands worldwide. (5.4 and 5.8 GHz mobile WiMax isn’t covered by approved profiles, but the same technology may be used on those bands as on the profiled bands.)

The news was made public on a mailing list for those involved with IEEE 802.16 by Roger Marks, the working group’s chair.

Posted by Glennf at 1:16 PM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2007

Rundown of Mobile WiMax Versus Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Ars Technica has a brief but excellent comparison of mobile Wimax and Wi-Fi for citywide deployment: Wi-Fi has problems of interference, signal reach, and bandwidth; mobile WiMax should deliver through coordinated use of licensed spectrum quite high download rates with low latency and high quality. Interference isn’t entirely eliminated, but it’s within the control of the operator, not a situation for contention (joke intended) among unrelated parties.

The lack of WiMax adapters should be troubling, given that Sprint won’t subsidize the hardware, but Intel’s chief said a $30 price point is the goal, as well as $30 per month service.

What Ars doesn’t note is that WiMax costs a lot more to build out than Wi-Fi. Add in the friction of getting all users to purchase cards or dongles until the Intel machine is geared up to include as a standard laptop feature, and that slows things down a bit.

Further, Wi-Fi doesn’t require coordination with other parties to use the spectrum; you can certainly collide, however, on issues of interference and overuse of spectrum. It’s neat that Sprint and Clearwire have committed so much money to building their network out nationwide, but anyone can set up a Wi-Fi network wherever and to whatever extent they want. So where Ars paints WiMax as a clear and potentially successful alternative to Wi-Fi, the news site omits the monopoly situation. There will likely be a single WiMax entity, the shared network that Sprint and Clearwire will build.

They’ll be in competition against wireline services, sure, but a city can’t build a WiMax network, nor can most small providers. (There are some licenses held in small markets that could work for that, but they’re pretty thin now.)

Posted by Glennf at 4:09 PM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2007

Clearwire Quietly Tests Mobile Gear in Seattle

By Glenn Fleishman

Mobile WiMax isn’t yet on the market as such, but Clearwire has some test products in consumers’ hands in Seattle: Friend and colleague Nancy Gohring reports for IDG News Service that Clearwire is selling PC Cards and a mobile service in the Seattle area. This service requires an $80-post-rebate Motorola card—Motorola having bought Clearwire’s equipment division last year—and a $60 per month service with 1.5 Mbps downstream rates. Clearwire has no downstream usage limits, Gohring reports, as opposed to Verizon and other cell carriers with services that can peak to rates at or above Clearwire’s maximum. Clearwire is trialing the service, and wouldn’t provide many details.

(See comments for Steve Stroh’s take on the underlying equipment—which he expects is nomadic, requiring stationary operation, not mobile.)

Update: It’s pretty clear that this card isn’t anything new, just newly available. It’s definitely using the existing Clearwire technology, but in a portable form factor that doesn’t require a separate power source. There’s no new technology behind serving a signal to the card. Still, a harbinger of what’s to come.

Posted by Glennf at 4:36 PM | Comments (2)

August 17, 2007

Sprint Nextel Names Mobile WiMax Service Xohm

By Glenn Fleishman

Sounds like a former mantra: The Xohm service will be resold by both Clearwire and Sprint, pending regulatory and other approval. The Seattle Times says that the branding will likely appear as “Xohm from Sprint” and “Clearwire, powered by Xohm.” Clearwire will continue to sell under its own name internationally. Sprint announced the name at an investor and press event, where they also stated that WiMax service will reach 100m people by the end of 2008, with Clearwire building out service for 30m of that 100m. In 2010, Sprint expects $2.5b in revenue from WiMax.

They’ll spend $2.5b through 2008 on building the network, and an equal amount to add just 25m more people by 2010. It’s clear that there is low-hanging fruit as it’s unclear why Sprint would budget the same sum to cover such disparate numbers of people. I checked several news sources, and they all appear to back each other up on the dollar figure and population covered.

Posted by Glennf at 4:06 PM | Comments (1)

July 19, 2007

Sprint Nextel, Clearwire Strike WiMax, 3G Roaming Deal

By Glenn Fleishman

In a major move, Clearwire and Sprint Nextel will allow roaming across mobile WiMax networks; also Clearwire to Sprint’s 3G network: This is a massive development, ensuring the potential financial viability of mobile WiMax as an alternative to cell data and perhaps to slower flavors of wired broadband. It’s not guaranteed in any way that the market will wind up profitable nor that mobile WiMax will work as these firms expect when deployed widely in the field. But without this move, there would have been many more hurdles to cross.

The two firms will apparently swap licenses in markets where they overlap, and build an entirely nonoverlapping network with about 180m people covered by Sprint and 120m by Clearwire. This is akin to how early U.S. GSM providers agreed to build parts of their network to jumpstart GSM coverage.

While mobile WiMax roaming between the two firms was always a possibility, the fact that Sprint Nextel will allow Clearwire customers to roam onto their 3G EVDO network was a surprise to me. That means that Clearwire had enough to offer Sprint that they were willing to take this extraordinary move. The Wall Street Journal suggests that Sprint investors, nervous about the scale of investment in this untested technology, will have fears allayed by a deal that will rise all boats while giving Sprint national coverage for the network.

This is the most positive development for the future of mobile WiMax, and for a viable additional pipe to the home and mobile workers. It may also let some of the air out of city-wide Wi-Fi.

Posted by Glennf at 8:36 AM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2007

Sprint Nextel, Clearwire May Strike WiMax Roaming Agreement

By Glenn Fleishman

The Wall Street Journal reports that Sprint Nextel and Clearwire may agree to allow roaming by their customers across each other’s network: This could dramatically improve the chances for mobile WiMax to take off, as it would ensure that each firm’s customers didn’t hit huge service holes in areas in which their provider lacked licenses.

Sprint clearly retains a strong lead in the total amount of spectrum held—at one time, valued at 85 percent of the available licenses—while Clearwire has done a good job in extending its geographic reach. The Journal says the two firms might create a joint venture to pool assets, or might swap spectrum holdings in some markets.

Clearwire has only one technology in its arsenal. Sprint said at its 4G network launch that it would offer adapters for mobile users that would support both 3G EVDO and mobile WiMax. That gave them a fallback position for their business traveler market.

Posted by Glennf at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2007

Analyst Predicts 54m WiMax Subscribers by 2012; Devices Key

By Glenn Fleishman

Senza Fili Consulting’s latest WiMax report predicts a relatively large market for both mobile and fixed uses of “mobile” WiMax: The report says that 54m subscribers could be signed up by 2012, but that emerging markets and the U.S. will be key to WiMax’s worldwide uptake. 54m subscribers will be a relatively low number compared to broadband—300m broadband subscriptions are in use today, according to a report earlier this week—and quite low compared to the billions of cell phone voice users expected by 2012.

The report author Monica Paolini notes that the truly mobile WiMax access devices—not nomadic ones that require AC power or are bulky—will lead to increased adoption. That’s the goal of Sprint and Clearwire, certainly; they want PC Card form factor WiMax cards next year. Paolini also suggests that portable data devices with WiMax built in will be key in developing nations for adoption.

Posted by Glennf at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2007

Journal Says Sprint May Rethink WiMax

By Glenn Fleishman

The Wall St Journal reports that Sprint Nextel is looking at financing options for WiMax service: The company has committed $3b to the rollout, and may need to spinoff the WiMax unit and form a partnership with Clearwire. That would provide a massive amount of licensing power, and vastly reduce the competitive framework between the two operators. Sprint might also create a “more modest partnership” with Clearwire. Sprint might also look for outside financing, notably from MSOs (multiple system operators, or cable TV giants), with which they already have a relationship for reselling cellular service.

The article makes a few mistakes. While it notes that Clearwire currently uses a WiMax-like technology, the company’s path is for actual WiMax in 2008. That should have been noted, as it’s key in terms of integration between Sprint and Clearwire. Second, the chart showing a comparison of options between WiMax and 3G services has several problems. First, the bandwidth comparison doesn’t note that it’s downstream speeds only. Second, 3G networks using EVDO Rev. A, which is now extensively but not completely deployed by Verizon and Sprint, can reach 850 Kbps as a routine speed with peaks over 2 Mbps. The WiMax speed is noted as an absolute. Third, comparing 3G to DSL and WiMax to cable is absurd. DSL is routinely available at rates from 1.5 Mbps to 6 Mbps. Cable is typically only available at high starting points, but pricing is often in parity with similar DSL offerings.

Om Malik points out at GigaOm that the Sprint/Nextel merger may be the hidden cause of these plans, as the integration between the two firms has proven problematic. Nextel, however, had a large spectrum portfolio, and it was clear that was one of Sprint’s big motivations.

Posted by Glennf at 11:12 AM | Comments (0)

WiMax Startup Claims Nine Cities Near Mobile WiMax Deployment

By Glenn Fleishman

Horizon Wi-Com may be the first out of the gate due to more modest ambitions than Clearwire, Sprint Nextel: The firm has a 2.3 GHz spectrum portfolio that they told InformationWeek has allowed them to set up networks with Navini equipment in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Richmond, and Cincinnati. Philadelphia is the only one of those cities with a citywide Wi-Fi rollout underway. Cincinnati has a smaller community-driven effort in place.

The company claims they’ll cover 70m people (POPs being defined incorrectly in the article). Pricing hasn’t been announced; a commercial rollout is three months away. They plan to clean Wi-Fi’s clock. Interestingly, the 2.3 GHz licenses were purchased from Verizon, InformationWeek reports.

The cities in question could likely see service also from Clearwire and Sprint Nextel in the 2.5 GHz band. Both firms claim to have licenses covering over 200m people, which likely includes these cities. So residents of some towns could see Wi-Fi, three competing mobile WiMax offerings, and three or four competing 3G cell networks (depending on when T-Mobile launches service).

Posted by Glennf at 11:03 AM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2007

FCC Affirms 3.650-3.700 GHz Rules for Broadly Licensed Use

By Glenn Fleishman

The FCC, after nearly two years, has affirmed its plan to allow overlapping uses of the 3.650 GHz band: The agency has reserved 50 MHz for a special kind of licensed use that will make it possible to run reliable high-signal-strength systems from fixed base stations using WiMax or—an import or—any other standard or technology that conforms to what sound like fairly broad rules. The band will allow 20 watts of transmit power versus a maximum of 1 watt for an omnidirectional antenna with Wi-Fi and like systems in 2.4 GHz and some of 5 GHz.

The licensing require is just a bare minimum. There will be no restriction on the number of licensees, and licensees will be required to register themselves and how they’re using the band in their area. The users of the band will have to coordinate among themselves to avoid interference and system problems. Failing that, the FCC could step in. But no licensee under this regime will have any priority rights over any other.

It’s a significant departure from the Part 15 rules that govern unlicensed Wi-Fi and other devices in 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, in which every device is required to accept interference without complaint, but not generate too much interference. The 2.4 GHz band in particular is a problem because there are many competing uses of the band, including licensed users that do have priority (amateur radio operators among others).

The band isn’t completely clear, however. Earth receiving stations for satellite systems will have priority over new uses, and they will have broad exclusion zones that will prevent this band from being broadly used in urban areas, especially on the coasts. Wireless ISPs and others who can, however, negotiate with earth station operators and come up with solutions that let them operate in the band.

Initially, therefore, rural areas will see much simpler use—with potentially no overlapping wireless ISPs, even—and, Harold Feld argues, so will municipalities. The band is perfect for backhaul and network links for a muni network, and cities are in good positions to negotiate with the existing licenseholders—they’re on the hook if something goes wrong.

The lower 25 MHz of the band will require scheduling of time slots among competing devices in the same airspace; the upper 25 MHz entire band will use open contention rules similar to those in Wi-Fi (listen to see if anyone’s talking, and then start talking if they’re not). That’s WiMax rules for the lower band, more or less, and Wi-Fi rules for the whole thing. (Note: I had originally stated that only the 25 MHz top half of the band would allow contention rules; not the case. See the comment from Harold Feld below.)

I’ve linked to Harold Feld’s analysis. Feld works for the Media Access Project, a non-profit that’s interested in expanding the number of voices that get heard by influencing media ownership, telecom, and spectrum policy. So he has a horse in this race. But his description is detailed and tells you who has won and who has lost (no one, really) in the FCC’s decision.

Meanwhile, Ubiquiti already has a piece of gear ready to go—it’s designed for either 3.5 GHz (a more broadly available worldwide chunk of spectrum) and 3.65 GHz with contention.

Posted by Glennf at 2:19 PM | Comments (2)

May 21, 2007

Clearwire Completes First Test Phase

By Glenn Fleishman

The company is migrating from proprietary gear to mobile WiMax over time: Their 15 sq. mi. test in Oregon in Intel country—one of the big backers of mobile WiMax—was apparently successful. The next phase grows to 145 sq. mi. The test covered coverage, capacity, and speed, the firm said. They say they’re on track to deliver mobile WiMax in 2008.

The current Clearwire technology has a bottom line performance about half the speed expected from the entry-level mobile WiMax offering, and uses technology manufactured by Motorola through a former division of Clearwire sold to that electronics giant.

The significance of mobile WiMax is not just faster speeds or greater distances. Rather, the promise is that with major equipment makers such as Intel, Samsung, and Motorola committed to producing gear in quantity, and with two providers rolling out in this country and others in South Korea, that the cost of getting the network running and customers equipped will be low enough to compete with 3G cellular data networks and their continual upgrades.

That remains to be seen, as the news anchors like to say.

Still, a publicly held firm declaring success on trials sets a legal bar for them if they later were to have trouble that was predicted at this stage.

Posted by Glennf at 5:03 PM | Comments (0)

May 1, 2007

Clearwire Receives PC Card Approval

By Glenn Fleishman

Clearwire can resell the Expedience PC Card from Motorola: The card will offer 1.5 Mbps downstream and 128 Kbps upstream according to sources. Pricing hasn’t yet been set, but it’s likely that Clearwire will establish home areas and charge a monthly roaming fee to access out-of-metro-area services. The card is not WiMax, and you’ll note the press release talks about “WiMax class” products and networks. It uses the NextNet Expedience technology, a proprietary standard that runs Clearwire’s current network, and which was part of what Clearwire spun off to Motorola with the NextNet sale.

Posted by Glennf at 10:18 PM | Comments (0)

April 17, 2007

Qualcomm Buys Mobile WiMax Tech

By Glenn Fleishman

Qualcomm has acquired the 802.16e portfolio from TeleCIS: Qualcomm says they wanted engineering resources (uh, people?), and would apply those resources towards a range of technology, including mobile WiMax if demand materializes.

Posted by Glennf at 10:15 PM | Comments (0)

WiMax Device Round-Up

By Glenn Fleishman

GigaOm rounds up the mobile WiMax devices that are slated for appearance: Nokia, early 2008; LG, one model for sale in Korea soon, US next year; Samsung, WiBro in Korea, no US timetables; ZTE and Zyxel, only general information.

Posted by Glennf at 2:50 PM | Comments (0)

March 27, 2007

Sprint Reveals More 4G Details

By Glenn Fleishman

Sprint Nextel announces more build-out plans, equipment details for its mobile WiMax “4G” network: The firm said it has chosen Samsung to build PC Cards that exchange data over the new network, which will launch in late 2007, and pass 100m people by the end of next year. The PC Cards will be either WiMax-only or support both the 3G EVDO network and the WiMax network. Two other firms will also supply gear: ZTE will make PC Cards and “modems,” which I take to mean external adapters, something like Clearwire’s fixed/nomadic receiver; and Zyxel, which will make just modems.

Sprint provided a long list of metro areas that it would cover in 2008 with the new service. notes that Chicago and Baltimore/D.C. were already announced to receive early coverage at the end of this year. In early 2008, the company will roll out Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, otherwise known as AT&T’s key turf. The new announcement mentions more than a dozen additional metro areas, including Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and Seattle—but notably not San Francisco or New York.

Each of Sprint’s major network equipment partners will build out a distinct set of cities split among Motorola, Samsung, and Nokia. The article features the details on which vendor builds which cities.

Posted by Glennf at 1:38 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2007

Alvarion Releases Mobile WiMax System

By Glenn Fleishman

Alvarion’s BreezeMax with 802.16e is ready for business: The company has been testing their latest version with customer around the world. BreezeMax is part of their 4Motion system, which supports Open WiMax, a way for vendors to interoperate, Alvarion says. BreezeMax works in 2.3, 2.5, and 3.5 GHz.

Posted by Glennf at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

March 8, 2007

Clearwire Raises $600m in IPO

By Glenn Fleishman

Clearwire sells more stock than estimated at high end of range: The Craig McCaw firm brought in $600m by selling 24m shares; they trade under the ticker symbol CLWR. The firm raised the money to continue its very expensive rollout of pre- and soon actual-mobile WiMax service nationwide. Clearwire currently operates in 34 US markets and in Belgium and Ireland, and has 207,200 subscribers, mostly in the US. It raised $2b before the stock offering.

Posted by Glennf at 9:38 AM | Comments (0)

March 6, 2007

Handicapping Sprint's Chances with Mobile WiMax

By Glenn Fleishman

David Haskin writes about the potential for mobile WiMax to compete with and beat out 3G: Sprint appears to be the only carrier with the spectrum portfolio to make mobile WiMax work; Clearwire has admittedly a lot less spectrum, and as a new entrant, it’s unclear where in the heap they’ll wind up, this article suggests. If mobile WiMax’s speeds are to be believed, even the latest cell data revisions should considerably lag the 1 Mbps up and 2 to 4 Mbps down.

Haskin quotes Sprint being pretty optimistic—citing Ali Tabassi (once with Wi-Fi hotspot pioneer MobileStar) noting that the company is on track to launch two cities in 2007 and cover 100m people in 2008.

Posted by Glennf at 7:45 PM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2007

Nortel Places Multi-Vendor WiMax+MIMO Call

By Glenn Fleishman

The story is a bit complex, but it’s apparently a first: Nortel, Kyocera Wireless, and Runcom worked together to create the lab conditions to place a call using MIMO-equipped WiMax equipment. It’s all prototype gear, but it involved three different firms working together to produce the call, which included voice and streaming video. Nortel is heavily pushing MIMO-based WiMax; current WiMax standards don’t require MIMO, but there’s an expectation that it will be a significant part of wide-scale rollouts within a few years. MIMO buys you frequency reuse and greater range with relatively few penalties compared to simple omnidirectional antennas.

Posted by Glennf at 1:27 PM | Comments (0)

February 9, 2007

Proxim MeshMAX Combines Wi-Fi, WiMax

By Glenn Fleishman

The company says it’s the first to mash-up Wi-Fi, WiMax in a single platform: The company offers both 802.11b/g and 802.11a radios for Wi-Fi coupled with a fixed WiMax (802.16-2004) radio for backhaul. The WiMax radio, from the Tsunami product line, works in 3.3 to 3.6 GHz licensed and 5.1 to 5.8 GHz unlicensed spectrum. There’s also an Ethernet switch built in. The WiMax radio is certified as a standalone item, but the entire product needs new certification. The company says MeshMAX will be software upgradable to Mobile WIMax (802.16-2005).

Posted by Glennf at 10:56 AM | Comments (1)