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Industry heavies set to push WiMax upgrade

Intel, Motorola, Samsung and others have united to back WiMax 2, which is competing in some markets with long-term evolution for the 4G crown
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

A number of mobile industry players including Intel, Motorola and Samsung have launched an effort to push the interoperability of devices and equipment based on the upcoming WiMax 2 high-speed wireless standard.

The WiMax 2 Collaboration Initiative (WCI), announced on Sunday, said it aims to speed up industry adoption of the next WiMax release, based on the IEEE 802.16m standard and due for finalisation in the second half of this year.

WiMax 2 will maintain backward compatibility with the earlier WiMax standard, based on IEEE 802.16e, while increasing peak transmission rates to more than 300Mbps, increasing internet telephony capacity and lowering latency, the WCI said.

The WCI's 10 founding members are Alvarion, Beceem, GCT Semiconductor, Intel, Motorola, Samsung, Sequans, XRONet, ZTE and the Taiwanese government's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI).

The initiative said it will work with the WiMax Forum, the principal body for certifying WiMax product interoperability, to implement interoperable system profiles for WiMax 2 equipment and devices. The WCI said it plans to carry out joint performance benchmarking and joint testing of 4G applications on WiMax 2 systems and network-level interoperability testing.

The WCI said it would publish more detailed milestones and delivery schedules within the next three to six months. The group plans to work to the WiMax Forum's schedule of certifying commercial WiMax 2 products by late 2011. The group noted that WiMax 2 meets the International Telecommunications Union's (ITU) IMT Advanced requirements for 4G, making it a competitor to the long-term evolution (LTE) set of enhancements to 3G.

While LTE doesn't fully comply with the ITU's 4G requirements, it has been adopted by most Western mobile operators as their high-speed wireless technology. WiMax, on the other hand, has seen some uptake in the developing world, particularly where fixed-line networks are sparse or non-existent, and is seen as playing a niche role in countries such as the UK.

Virgin Trains' on-board Wi-Fi service is enabled partly using WiMax. WiMax has been rolled out in Japan by network operator UQ, and in the US by Clearwire and Sprint, all three of which said they support the formation of the WCI.

The ITRI noted that Taiwanese manufacturers have invested heavily in WiMax, producing equipment such as standalone modems, USB dongles, embedded modules for PCs, mobile internet devices and mobile phone handsets based on the first version of the technology.

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