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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).
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.
Monica Paolini files a report on trying WiBro in Seoul: Paolini, who runs the analysis firm Senza Fili Consulting, was able to get 500 Kbps to 2 Mbps performance down and 250 Kbps to 500 Kbps up within the coverage area. She could even make Skype calls on the 19th floor of her hotel, despite Korea Telecom promising only coverage up to the fourth floor. The network was quite busy with other users similarly testing the network in the same location. This is first-generation WiBro with single input and output antennas. Paolini predicts better performance when MIMO is added.
Paolini identifies a more salient factor in why Asian telecoms get such huge uptake on data services in general: KT is pushing user-to-user operations, such as messaging and video calls. They’re not stressing high-download, walled-garden passive content.
WiBro uses the 2.3 GHz band with an 8.75 MHz channel, which Paolini notes was developed as a Mobile WiMax profile for the Korean market.
Nortel packs MIMO, WiMax, and IPTV into one system: The company is making huge claims. They’ll deliver video content at 1/10th the cost per bit of 3G cell networks and offer three times the speed and twice the subscriber capacity of non-WiMax competitors. Their system will work in 1.5 GHz, 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz, and 3.5 GHz bands, making it available worldwide.
The broadband wireless firm Alvarion will offer two products for mobile WiMax in 2.3 and 2.5 GHz bands this fall: The two bands appear to be the prime contenders for roll out in the US, with Sprint, BellSouth, and Clearwire having significant licenses in those bands. (BellSouth and AT&T may be required to sell their 2.3/2.5 GHz licenses to complete a merger, which could open up even more possibility for those bands.)
Two powerful Senators on either side of the aisle propose divestiture of 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz spectrum for AT&T/BellSouth merger to proceed: Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) say that there’s only negative reasons for the combined firm to maintain this bandwidth. By divesting, they ensure more competition. An excellent analysis of this issue was written back in April 2006 by communications attorney Mark Del Bianco for News.com.
It deserves to be emphasized that there are over 300m people in the US: Sprint Nextel claims 100m people will be served by its licensed “4G” service, while Clearwire says that they could reach 90m people. Sprint has more urban licenses; Clearwire, rural and minor markets. There is overlap between them. Thus, the idea that mobile WiMax with this set of licenses will replace 3G is obviously ludicrous.
This gives Verizon somewhat of a leg up in that while they might lag with their next-generation network plans behind a faster rollout by Clearwire and Sprint, and while Sprint will be able to offer multimode 3G/4G devices, Verizon can put all of its effort behind its recently announced commitment to IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem). Cingular, likewise, while having its star hitched to HSDPA (high-speed download packet access), and lagging a bit behind Verizon and Sprint’s 3G footprint, has committed to IMS as part of its evolution. (EVDO and HSDPA aren’t incompatible with IMS; IMS covers the architecture of a network and how data is handled rather than the physical layer. There are some pieces that reach up and down layers, but it’s not odd for CDMA and GSM carriers to both commit to IMS.)
IMS will require an entire revamping of the cellular network to allow an all-IP system, but it could reap huge rewards. More spectrum is needed to take full advantage, but it doesn’t require operating multiple systems—where Sprint has now committed to running and upgrading 3G on the one hand and mobile WiMax on the other. Sprint is planning to roll out EVDO Rev. A by year’s end, and there’s a roadmap for EVDO Rev. B with even faster speeds from Qualcomm. Will Sprint leave the 200m people they can’t serve (with current licenses and plans) with mobile WiMax sitting at Rev. A speeds if Verizon bumps to Rev. B coupled with IMS?
This makes me think that Sprint has spectrum plans up its sleeves. They can’t easily get 2.1 GHz or 2.3 GHz spectrum—BellSouth owns a chunk of 2.3 GHz and little pieces of 2.5 GHz, so those will ultimately be able to be entirely in Cingular’s hands after the AT&T merger with BellSouth completes, and AT&T owns 100% of Cingular and 100% of those licenses.
In an interesting development, BellSouth will roll out more WiMax in several cities in the third quarter: The current equipment is pre-WiMax, offering 1.5 Mbps over 128 to 384 Kbps, but the future service should use full WiMax-grade equipment and provide 3 Mbps downstream, according to Multichannel News. They’re using WiMax to fill in uncovered urban and rural areas, rather than let this spots be cherrypicked by other providers. The deployments will be in Albany, Geor.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Greenville, Miss.; and Melbourne, Flor.
The article notes BellSouth is using its 2.3 GHz licenses except in Athens, Geor., where it lacks that spectrum and uses some of its much smaller 2.5 GHz holdings. They’re using Navini equipment now, and will test Alcatel’s 802.16-2005 gear in the full. But they don’t expect to see a full rollout of 802.16-2005 equipment until late 2007 or into 2008.
I’d also argue that BellSouth is deploying service so that when their licenses come up for renewal next year, they have some investment in the band.
Craig McCaw’s broadband wireless firm Clearwire raises $600m from Intel Capital, $300m from others: The latest revolutionary wireless firm founded by McCaw aims to deploy mobile broadband wireless worldwide using mobile WiMax (part of 802.16e-2005). Part of the money comes from Motorola purchasing Clearwire’s NextNet equipment subsidiary, which has been manufacturing and prototyping gear for Clearwire’s network, starting with customer premises equipment (CPE), or the fixed receivers plugged in at homes.
Clearwire owns the second-largest portfolio of spectrum in the desirable 2.5 GHz band in the U.S.; Sprint Nextel is the biggest holder. This is a great band into which to deploy mobile WiMax because of the geographic coverage—Clearwire says that they can reach 90m residents with current licenses—and the channelization, which is wide enough to allow sufficient bandwidth for real mobile applications, including video. (While BellSouth owns a chunk in 2.5 GHz, their biggest holdings are in 2.3 GHz. They are already looking at equipment that would offer WiMax or WiMax-like services in both bands. This spectrum is part of AT&T-formerly-SBC’s desire to purchase BellSouth, which would also give AT&T 100-percent ownership of Cingular, and allow more combined offerings there across DSL, cell data/3G, and WiMax.)
Intel has had a chicken-and-egg problem with its backing of WiMax, particularly the mobile and portable/nomadic form, in that they need networks to drive interest in the chips they plan to include in their laptop reference designs. By investing this heavily in Clearwire, they’ve basically guaranteed that a network will be built. This also seeds more interest in competing networks, and puts the cellular operators on notice that Intel is not their partner, if they ever harbored such a suspicion. In fact, Clearwire could offer competitive voice services over their network using handsets with mobile WiMax built in.
Intel is slated to ship Rosedale 2 chips by the end of the year, according to Light Reading, which will offer both older fixed (802.16-2004) and newer fixed/portable/mobile (802.16-2005) support. They’ll also make Ofer-R available for Wi-Fi and WiMax support in portable and handheld devices.
Way back at the Centrino introduction, Intel told me that future Centrino wireless chipsets would incorporate Wi-Fi and cellular data standards. That never happened. Instead, Intel discovered the wonders of a newly competitive marketplace that they thought could evolve worldwide in which they could have a stake and a say in its operation and standards development. Intel has been a big force in WiMax from many angles, this being just the latest.
Navini ships Ripwave for 2.3 GHz: The company says this band will be used for personal communications worldwide. In the US, no one company owns more than 10 MHz of the 30 MHz that’s allotted. This requires some of the smallest profiles for 802.16-2005 (fixed/portable/mobile) WiMax. They’re aiming this at the mobile sgement.