WiMax 2 standard gets date for approval

Formal approval will allow product certification to get underway, to bring low-latency, high-bandwidth communications devices to market
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

The WiMax 2 high-speed wireless technology, which is expected to boost download speeds for mobile devices, is set to become a standard by early next year, according to an industry group.

On Monday, the WiMax Forum said that 802.16m, the key technology within WiMax 2, is expected to be standardised by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in November. Formal approval by the IEEE Standards Association is scheduled for the first quarter of 2011, with device certification coming in late 2011.

The 802.16m update should help WiMax 2 deliver download speeds of up to 120Mbps and provide lower latency than the first version of WiMax.

WiMax 2 is a competitor to LTE, the "long-term evolution" of the 3G standard used for mobile phone and other wireless communications. Because LTE has a much greater take-up within the UK and other Western countries, WiMax is unlikely to see a UK-wide mobile rollout. Nevertheless, long-range WiMax could serve a "substantial niche market" in the UK, according to a key industry backer.

The UK government has plans for a 4G spectrum auction at the end of 2011. Both the 800MHz and 2.6GHz sections of the spectrum will be for sale, and both will be usable by WiMax or LTE.

A report released in April by IDC found that spending on LTE is set to eclipse the total spent on WiMax deployments by the end of 2011.

However, the upcoming WiMax update does have some heavyweight backers. In April, a group of major players in the mobile industry teamed up to create the WiMax 2 Collaboration Initiative (WCI). Intel, Motorola, Samsung and others want the WCI to work with the WiMax Forum to increase interoperability of devices and equipment based on the fledgling standard.

In addition, the existing WiMax technology has made inroads into the market outside of the UK. Last year, Japanese company UQ communications received a £27m cash infusion, courtesy of Intel's venture-capital arm, to provide broad WiMax coverage to most of Japan by 2012. WiMax service is also provided by US carriers Clearwire and Sprint, and it is popular in the developing world.

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