From WiBro to 4G

Mobile WiMax is an indispensable part of the gradual progression toward 4G, says senior executive at Samsung.

SINGAPORE--Mobile WiMax is an indispensable part of the gradual progression toward fourth-generation (4G) wireless network, according to a senior executive at Korean electronics giant Samsung.

Speaking at an analyst briefing held here last week, Kang Hoon Lee, vice president of next-generation terminal team at Samsung Electronics, said "WiBro is a necessary intermediate step toward 4G".

Developed by the South Korean telecoms industry, WiBro is a wireless broadband technology based on the IEEE 802.16 standard--also popularly referred to as WiMax. WiBro is capable of providing continuous wireless broadband connection even while traveling at speeds of 120 kilometers per hour, and supports the IEEE 802.16e specification that was approved in December last year.

According to Lee, the fourth-generation wireless network will integrate wired and wireless network to enable ubiquitous, seamless real service anytime, anywhere. It can also support up to 1Gbps transfer rate for integrated nomadic connectivity and 100Mbps for nomadic mobile, he said.

Lee noted that WiBro--also known as mobile WiMax internationally--can provide seamless wireless broadband access, and will " co-exist with 3G networks [to support] complementary dedicated Internet access". He added that WiBro's key distinction from a wireless local area network, or Wi-Fi, and fixed WiMax is in its ability to provide "handover functionality" and therefore, ubiquitous connection.

Lee also said that 4G is a heterogeneous network that is completely based on Internet Protocol, and will "connect various networks such as mobile communications, broadband wireless access, nomadic and home networks".

"Even though individual networks started separately with their own purposes, they will eventually be converted to 4G network," Lee noted.

In Seoul, South Korea, two telecom operators--SK Telecom and Korea Telecom--have launched commercial WiBro services.

High-speed multimedia communication
According to Paul Jesemann, chief technology officer of telecom products at LogicaCMG Asia-Pacific, another next-generation network architecture--Internet Protocol Multimedia Subsystem (IMS)--will allow operators to offer rich multimedia services to customers, as well as increase their overall revenue.

Through applications built on IMS--which runs on high-speed IP networks--users can share video content while having a conversation on the phone, exchange files in single session, and even text message across a variety of devices on a unified platform, he said.

Akin to taking the PC experience and transferring it to the mobile, Jesemann told ZDNet Asia that IMS is "an extension…of what you actually could do with Yahoo messenger or Microsoft messenger at the moment, but in a standardized manner for mobile".

Users though will need an IMS-enabled phone to access IMS-based applications.

In Asia, mobile operator Hong Kong CSL introduced an IMS-based video-sharing service in November last year, which allows subscribers to share a real-time or pre-recorded video during a voice conversation.

According to Jesemann, the implementation of IMS networks are expected to commence in the next 12 to 24 months in selected parts of the Asia-Pacific region, such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.

Rodney Chua, principal architect of chief technology office at LogicaCMG, added that the next couple of IMS networks will be seen in more technologically-advanced countries that have strong IP infrastructure structure and strong broadband connectivity.

However, despite the many benefits IMS touts, there is still some way to go before it can be deployed.

Jesemann noted that issues such as handset compatibility, product interoperability and pricing need to be resolved first.

In Europe and the United States, IMS has been widely adopted by fixed-line operators, he added.