Alvarion launches uncertified WiMax kit

WiMax won't be certified until the end of this year, but Alvarion has announced a product because it says telcos are already clamouring for it

Wireless hardware manufacturer Alvarion has launched a commercial WiMax product, even though the emerging technology hasn't yet been officially certified.

The BreezeMAX 3500 product consists of a WiMax base station and end-user access points, and is now shipping to several telecoms operators around the world. It will support a high-speed, non-line-of-sight wireless broadband service running in the 3.5GHz band of the radio spectrum.

WiMax is due to be formerly certified by the end of this year, at which point the BreezeMAX 3500 will be submitted for certification. Alvarion admits that it may have to modify the BreezeMAX system if it proves not to be compatible with the final WiMax specifications, but says it has launched now because of strong demand from telcos.

"Operators are telling us that they want to be on the path to WiMax even though it isn't certified yet," said Carlton O'Neal, Alvarion's vice-president of marketing.

"There's a bit of risk that we'll have to upgrade the equipment when the final WiMax specification comes out, but the operators are saying that they'll take that risk."

Intel is pushing WiMax strongly, following the success of its Centrino Wi-Fi chip. The processor-maker is expected to launch a WiMax chip later this year, a move that O'Neal says will act like a "booster rocket" on the WiMax sector.

The BreezeMax 3500 uses chips developed internally by Alvarion, and O'Neal says that the company will never use Intel's chips in its base stations.

Alvarion is expected to start naming the telecoms operators who are deploying BreezeMax 3500 over the next few weeks.

BT, which is thought to be the only company that is openly testing WiMax in the UK, has four trials running in rural areas. O'Neal wouldn't comment on whether Alvarion's kit is being used at these sites, and simply said that he had "heard that news too".