WiMax World

Anticipation is building for the first WiMAX World Conference and Exposition, in Boston, November 2-4, 2004. WiMax (IEEE 802.16), is widely viewed as the next significant advance in broadband wireless.

For the first time, all of the major WiMAX players, including technologies and applications, will be brought together. This conference could be the venue for the first (real) WiMax products.

The first WiMax gear will conform to IEEE 802.16-2004 for fixed broadband wireless in both the licensed and unlicensed band. Early next year, the WiMAX Forum, an industry group chartered to test and certify interoperability among WiMAX products, is expected to hold initial interoperability testing and certification programs.

The Pre-conference seminar, Program, Exhibitors, Sponsors and Press Releases should be newsworthy.

WiMax Forum chair, Ron Resnick – also director of marketing for Intel’s Broadband Wireless division – will speak on DRIVING STANDARDS IN BROADBAND WIRELESS, Caroline Gabriel, Research Director, Rethink Research will moderate a panel on WiMAX BUSINESS MODELS, Craig Mathiask, President, Farpoint Group will speak on WIMAX: THE COMPETITIVE PICTURE, and Dr. Mo Shakouri, VP Marketing, Alvarion, will talk on, WIMAX TECHNOLOGY EQUIPMENT ROLL-OUT TIMELINE.

Intel announced their 802.16-2004 system-on-a-chip this September. Base stations and clients for 802.16d (fixed wireless) and the emerging 802.16e (mobile wireless) standards are being developed by Intel and Proxim.

Chip vendors like Intel, Fujitsu and Wavesat may be ready to roll. Equipment vendors including Alvarion, Aperto Networks, Navini, NexNet, Proxim, Redline, Trango, Wi-LAN and others could announce WiMax products starting this month.

Initially, WiMAX will use the 5-GHz band used by 802.11a. The 5-GHz spectrum may include a 0.5-GHz swath which could include additional bandwidth to prevent interference, according to Scott Richardson, general manager of the broadband wireless division in Intel’s Wireless Networking Group.

Frank Draper, director of sales and marketing for Wavesat, one of Intel s main competitors in WiMAX technology, estimates the growth of broadband Internet usage at 40 percent annually, and predicts a $5-billion market for the United States alone.

“With promises of base stations priced below $15,000 and CPE below $200 – and eventually below $30 – not to mention a WiMAX ‘Centrino’ in the laptop or phone, the economics look, on the surface, compelling,” says the introduction.

Many issues will take time to resolve:

It is unlikely that only one service provider will deploy within a country, says speaker Monica Paolini. “To ensure country-wide, or international, access to networks managed by different service providers, roaming agreements will have to be established. The experience of WiFi roaming has taught us that roaming relationships are not easy to establish – mostly because they involve complex partnerships and a common infrastructure.”

Bob Egan says, “Today a licence for a particular radio channel or piece of spectrum comes with a reasonable expectation of being able to operate on these channels or spectrum slices free of interference from others. If WiMAX wins licensed spectrum, will it be licensed in the same manner as today’s spectrum? Or will the FCC and others in Washington DC use WiMAX-exclusive spectrum as an experiment in software-defined or cognitive radio technologies and let multiple licensees operate in the same spectrum slice “managing” interference among themselves?”

“The WiFi spectrum at 2.4 GHz is already suffering from interference between WiFi ISP’s who are trying to use WiFi. Will WiMAX be able to avoid the same levels of interference on unlicensed spectrum or will it succumb to the same problems presently being experienced by the WiFi providers,” asks Egan.

Whether WiMax will deliver true DSL and cable modem competition remains to be seen.

The WiMAX Forum, the interoperability/trade group, has more than 100 members supporting the 802.16 standard, including big names like Intel, Fujitsu, Alcatel and AT&T, as well as providers like Qwest, British Telecom and France Telecom. Cellular carriers tend to be less enthusiastic.

Perhaps the best shot for WiMax competition is the high power MMDS band at 2.5-2.7 GHz. But that band is pretty much owned by Sprint, Nextel and McCaw’s Clearwire. McCaw put himself right behind Sprint and Nextel, tied for third with BellSouth in MMDS spectrum ownership. Sprint is unlikely to compete with their own billion dollar EV-DO service, but Nextel, without a “3G” technology, is testing Flarion in North Carolina and could use 802.20 in their 2.6GHz spectrum and, perhaps, 1.9 GHz (after a Consensus swap). Meanwhile, T-Mobile, with investments in Flarion, could also cross-over to 802.20. That would leave Craig McCaw’s Clearwire as the only (major) Wi-Max competitor to cellular, phone or cable broadband (“hello, Bill”?).

A wildcard may be broadband wireless on unused 6 MHz television channels (in 5-6 years). That will penetrate folliage and walls better. Broadband duopolies could find that hard to stop.

The unlicensed band at 2.4 and 5.8 GHz is less than ideal; the 2.4 GHz is already over crowded and the 5GHz band, which doesn’t travel far, only has a 100 Mhz usable section (from 5.725-5.825 GHz) authorized to deliver enough power for last mile delivery. A $200, 802.16e Rubber Ducky hanging from cable or phone line amps might provide wireless mobility. Will phone or cable operators offer blanket “cable zones” and try to “kill off” any “free” competition? Nobody admits it.

A study from Visant Strategies recently said the market for 802.16/WiMax could reach $1 billion by 2008. Mostly overseas. Some additional WiMax Projections:

802.16 Gear

  • Airspan
  • Alvarion
  • Aperto Networks
  • Axxcelera
  • BeamReach
  • Cambridge Broadband
  • Harris
  • IP Wireless
  • Mesh Networks
  • Motorola
  • Navini
  • NexNet
  • Proxim
  • Redline
  • Solectek
  • Soma Networks
  • SRTelecom
  • Trango
  • Vyyo
  • Wi-LAN
  • Waverider
  • ZTE
  • Unwired Australia, AU
  • Personal Broadband, AU
  • Nextel Broadband, US
    • There were over 10,000 PMP BWA (sub 11Ghz) base stations and 1.2 Million CPEs installed worldwide providing 256Kbps+ broadband services to over 1.5 million subscribers.
    • Alvarion is the market leader with about 25% market share followed by SRTelecom with 12% and Proxim with 9%
    • EMEA which represented 32% of the overall market in 2003 continues to represent the largest market opportunity but Asia will outpace it by 2005;
    • The carrier and private networks market segments represented respectively 85% and 15% of the total market in 2003.
    • The access and backhaul applications represented respectively 84% and 16% of total sales in 2003. However backhaul will represent 30% of equipment sales by 2008
    • 3.5Ghz, the most allocated frequency band for BWA, represents the largest opportunity for BWA representing 40% of total sales followed by the 5.2-5.8Ghz band. We believe the 2.3 and 2.5-2.7Ghz market share will grow to 25% of the market by 2008
    • Already 12 vendors offer a 3.5Ghz product and 4 more players will offer a 3.5Ghz product in 2004 which will render that band market even more competitive
    • Among Plug & Play, NLOS, portable systems, IP Wireless is the leader in shipments and revenues, followed by a small group of companies, which include Navini, NextNet Wireless, or SRTelecom (Angel). It is however difficult to sub-segment the whole market on system capabilities.
    • Shipments of OFDM based product already represent 39% of all shipments and that proportion will grow with the adoption of 802.16d to close to 60% by 2008
    • Shipments of 802.16e will grow exponentially after 2007 to 1 million units and will be dominated by Intel

    WiMax pessimists include BWCS and Senza Fili Consulting, who predict fixed wireless services will only make up 3.6 percent of the overall broadband market in the United States by 2009, although broadband wireless services will bring in revenue of $3.7 billion.

    Supporters of 802.20, a competing IEEE standard, anticipate products with megabit mobility for cars and high-speed trains with automatic hand-off. But some industry observers think the industry is moving towards the WiMax 802.16e specification as handoff between 802.16e “cells” is now said to surpass 60 mph. Support for both fixed 802.16d and mobilized 802.16e from a single provider may be more economical. Proxim claims 802.16e (mobilized) clients will be available towards the end of 2005.

    Roger Marks founded the IEEE 802.16 Working Group in 1998, and has chaired, the Broadband Wireless Access Standards, committee. It completed the first WirelessMAN air interface standard in 2001 (for use above 10 GHz), and approved 802.16a, the original Wi-Max spec, in January, 2003.

    Intel got involved with WiMax in late 2002 and, by becoming a WiMax Forum member in 2003, formally joined the likes of Alvarion, Airspan, Nokia, Proxim, Redline and Aperto.

    “We envision (wireless) broadband connectivity everywhere, all the time,” said Ron Resnick, president of the WiMax Forum and a director of marketing at Intel. Intel is expected to have WiMax-ready chips available by the end of the year.

    Resnick said timing played a major role in Intel’s decision to back 802.16 standards, as did direction. WiMax-compliant gear is expected by early next year, but 802.20-based products aren’t expected until 2006. Resnick added that 802.20 was more focused on being a cellular competitor, while Intel was looking for more of a data technology.

    “This will not be an overnight transformation, and it will be tough (for WiMax) to establish itself,” said Michael Cai, an analyst with research firm Parks Associates.

    Base stations will be able to connect to other base stations within a range of up to 30 miles with data transfer speeds of up to 75 megabits per second. Subscriber stations, those set-top box like devices, will connect to base stations with ranges of up to 3 miles and transfer speeds of up to 15 megabits per second.

    Carriers and service providers will also have greater control of what services and plans they can offer subscribers from a base station. A carrier offering 700 kilobit-per-second and 1.4 megabit-per-second service plans could deliver both from the same base station.

    Intel announced a deal this month with Proxim to co-develop WiMax equipment, with base stations available by early next year. Proxim’s BreezeMAX will offer both macro and micro base stations, for dense urban to rural areas. A macro base station can support multiple Access Unit modules (up to 6 in a single chassis). A variety of CPEs provide cost effective solutions that support multiple applications, including indoor Wi-Fi connectivity, firewall and advanced IP functions for home networking and Hotspot backhauling.

    At least five chip makers are currently planning first-generation WiMax chips:

    Pre-WiMax broadband gear and service is available now from Calgary-based Wi-LAN, an OFDM pioneer, as well as TowerStream, a Wireless ISP that serves New York City, Chicago, Boston and other cities, Aperto Networks, and Craig McCaw’s NextNet Wireless. They all plan national broadband service and hope to switch to industry standards (WiMax) when available next year. Products based on prestandard versions of the 802.16-2004 specification are already being used. VeriLAN is using pre-WiMax gear in Portland while British carrier BT is testing wireless broadband services in the U.K. using Alvarion equipment based on draft versions of 802.16-2004. Towerstream buys its WiMAX equipment from Aperto Networks. SkyPilot, by contrast, will serve neighborhoods of up to 50 square miles using “wireless mesh” and 802.11a, the 5GHz flavor of Wi-Fi.

    Will 802.16 chips be used in place of 802.11a/b/g chips? It could happen. When antennas are fixed atop schools, community centers, gas stations or utility poles, a 802.16 card, rather than a Wi-Fi card, may deliver longer range, more reliable connections. WiMax supporters say the polling architecture, more rugged dynamically adaptable modulation of 802.16a/e, narrower channels and MIMO antennas will make it so. Wi-Fi’s Task Group E, developing a WiFi solution for Quality of Service (QoS), may even adopt the QOS developed for 802.16 (WiMax). The volume (cost) winner will remain with Wi-Fi for years, but 802.16 chips could become a “city cloud” contender – both for fixed and mobile users. Power restrictions are the same for WiFi and WiMax (in the unlicensed bands), but WiMax can use narrower channels that can concentrate signals.

    While 802.11a uses stock 20 Mhz channels, 802.16 can break both the unlicensed or licensed spectrum into narrower segments including 5, 6 and 10 MHz channels. Some equipment providers envision $20K wireless towers with 6 WiMax beams delivering 360 degree coverage. WiMax clients are expected to cost $200 or less in a couple of years. Intel anticipates WiMax PC-Cards, WiMax Centrino laptops, and even WiMax phones in 2-3 years. They would automatically hand-off between WiFi and WiMax.

    In the 400-700Mhz television band, perhaps 802.16e clouds could provide near revolutionary, ubquitous broadband coverage (with VoIP) using fewer and cheaper “access points” than cellular could ever hope to provide. That would be risky business for many incumbents, of course, and is what makes 802.16 such an interesting phenomena.

    The 1.5 billion mobile subscribers worldwide will pass the 2 billion in 2006 and 2.45 billion by the end of 2009, predicts market researcher EMC. The main growth is predicted to come from Brazil, China, and India.

    Many people would ditch their landlines for mobile phones if the rates were cheaper. Done. IEEE (802) standards are IP-centric, providing packet-switched Voice over IP, while cellular standards like UMTS have a more circuit-switched approach.

    • 802.16 – the original spec, is designed to standardize LMDS implementations. It’s used above 11 GHZ.

    • 802.16a – designed for the lower 2GHz to 11GHz bands. Intended for “last mile” competition with DSL and cable modems. Promoted by WiMAX (IEEE published doc), it can deliver up to 70 Mbps with a range up to 30 miles. Uses fixed, non-line-of-sight antennas. Doesn’t include “handoff”. Prime unlicensed band is 5.8 GHz while the licensed 2.6 GHz band (and lower) may provide competition to DSL and Cable Modems.

    • 802.16 REVd/802.16-2004 , consolidates revisions of 802.16a and 802.16c into a single standard that will replace 802.16a as the base standard. Among the changes is support of MIMO antennas, which will likely increase reliable range amid multipath. It may enable easy installs with indoor antennas.

    • 802.16e – adds mobility features (email archives & pdf doc). Narrower bandwidth (a max of 5 Mhz), slower speed and smaller antennas allow “walkabout” or vehicular mobility (up to 40mph or so). It’s backwards compatible with the 802.16 standard. Completion of the final spec could happen by the end of 2004. At 3.5 GHz and lower, it may provide some competition to cellular with a range of 1-3 miles in cities.

    • 802.20 – designed specifically for high-speed mobile users (think 180 mph trains). Can use narrow radio channels and duplex channels to provide cellular-like functions. Includes capability for hand-off, mobile 500-700kps connections, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), online gaming and financial transactions. Many native IP applications can be used without alteration (unlike circuit-switched cellular aps). Believed to be a contender for “4G” cellular adoption (think Nextel and T-Mobile).

    The 802.16e Task Group will add a degree of mobility to the fixed (802.16a) standard. There is said to be some overlap between 802.16e and 802.20. Mark Klerer, chair of 802.20, argues that a separate spec is needed. The 802.20 uses a doppler resistant, frequency-hopping technique. The specification is being promoted by Flarion which uses Flash-OFDM to provide broadband wireless mobility at high speeds using frequencies below 3.5 GHz.

    Our goal is to bring a true broadband experience to wireless users,” says Mark Klerer, 802.20 Working Group Chair and Executive Director of Standards at Flarion Technologies. Flarion’s flash-OFDM solution is capable of delivering voice and data traffic simultaneously to one and/or many users, in a single 1.25 MHz carrier with 1,500 kbps down and 600 kbps up. Today, Flarion can support 31 simultaneously active voice calls per 1.25 MHz sector…and will support up to 62 simultaneously active voice calls in the next release”…

    Whatever. WiMAX World is here. Now.

    Banned in China

    SlashDot reports China is closing some 1,600 “Internet Bars”, fining them up to $12.1 million. The Chinese government says the Internet Bars were letting young children to play violent and adult-only PC games. Reports say the goverment inspected some 1.8 million bars and ordered about 18,000 of those bars to “to stop operation for rectification.”

    Perhaps there’s another reason — government control.

    The Chinese government also banned DailyWireless for heaven’s sake. “Editor-in-Chief” Sam Churchill received an email from a viewer a few months ago saying that DailyWireless is not available in mainland China. He had to use a proxy server to view this blog.

    Sheese. I guess we’d better watch our step!

    Revolution in Mobile Services

    There are some 100 million game consoles worldwide about 73 million PlayStations, 16 million Xboxes and 14 million GameCubes. According to the Zelos Group, 45 million full-feature media-capable handsets will be in the global market by the end of the year. Software that supports music, video and game downloads will follow.

    Photoblogs provide free or inexpensive ways to share photos. Fotolog and Fotopages host photoblogs from all over the world. If you already have a Web site with FTP, Snaplog is an easy tool for publishing your photoblog.

    Here are some other options for creating music and video downloads:

    • Apple’s Quicktime
      The QuickTime Player works with 3GPP, 3GPP2, MPEG-4, MPEG-2 files and other common media (except Real and WindowsMedia). Can download music from iTunes. Its suite includes QuickTime Streaming Server for live or on demand feeds over the Internet and 3G mobile neworks with no per-stream license fees. The Darwin Streaming Server, is a free, open source version running on Linux, Solaris, and Windows 2000. QuickTime Broadcaster allows just about anyone to produce a live broadcast event.

    • Real’s Helix Mobile Platform
      Real Mobile Suite was designed for deployment inside the mobile operator networks.Their music download service, Rhapsody, will likely go mobile. Mobile Producer and Universal Server deliver live and on-demand audio and video to consumer handsets. It works over all major wireless data networks, including CDMAone, GPRS, UMTS, EDGE, PHS, PDC, WCDMA, CDMA2000 and 802.11b-WiFi. With the broadest support for mobile delivery standards, including support for live streaming of 3GPP content. Real provides four hours of sports, news and entertainment video content every day through media partnerships.

    • Microsoft Windows Media
      Windows Media Player 10 Mobile plays music and videos on Pocket PCs and Smartphones such as the Audiovox SMT5600, Dell Axim X50, T-Mobile MDA III and Motorola MPx220. Can download music from MSN. Uses Exchange Server, Windows Media Streaming media server and Windows Media Encoder. Producer 2003 is a popular add-on for Microsoft PowerPoint.

    • Perseus Wireless
      Develops mobile video applications for the closed-circuit security industry, is now offering surveillance services over the AT&T Wireless high-speed (3G) network. In addition to the cellular connectivity, the Perseus phones also support Wi-Fi (802.11 wireless LAN) and Ethernet connections.
    • MusicGremlin
      MusicGremlin provides downloads over wireless LAN. The company’s technology and proposed music portal are intended to bring the equivalent of iTunes to the handset.

    • OnAir Entertainment
      OnAir is taking television to the Wi-Fi hot spot. It has created a media server that turns a laptop connected to a wireless LAN into a television and personal video recorder. They deliver live satellite TV directly to Wi-Fi enabled laptops and PDAs for airports, hotels, trains and convention centers.

    • KnowledgeWhere is a Location Application Platform (LAP) for location-based services. Swordfish, a location-based fishing game, uses KnowledgeWhere and Java enabled mobile phones that are GPS equipped.

    • Herecast uses an ordinary Wi-Fi device to figure out where you are. It’s open to all developers, making it relatively easy to create your own location aware services.

    NewsBreak (right), a Pocket PC application, can access “podcasts” (recent feeds) of international or local news. In your neighborhood. On your block. It uses whatever wireless connectivity you have available including WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular connections. Anyone can provide an RSS feed with audio or video enclosures. For practically nothin’. Audio makes sense for handhelds. WebJay it.

    Location-Based Services such as mobile games, child tracking, social networking and other services will be on this train. Location service providers for cellular networks include Adesso Systems, Aeroscout, Enpocket, F-Secure, Intellisync, Tatara Systems, Sproqit Technologies, MapQuest and Xora to name a few. How boring. Localizing PDA Content is free. Like speech.

    Open source tools like Open GIS, Google, Yahoo and a million creative minds will energize the “free” cloud into a crackling powerhouse.

    Video Blog TV Channels and MobileTV via DVB-H are GOING to happen. WiFi/WiMax networks will bust out of the walled prison.

    This revolution is unstoppable. Just look around. Drop historic photos into PhotoStory and add narration. Every hot spot can have unique content…and a live birdcam.

    Remote content hubs don’t even need an internet connection. A solar-powered Linksys WRT-54G with embedded NoCat ($60) can provide users with multi-media files linked on the splash page. No moving parts.

    Happy Halloween

    Need a Halloween mask? Forbes magazine has some famous movers and shakers. Some are heroes, the kind of wealthy people we all aspire to be. Others are villains. And some are both. Click on the images for a full-size, printer-friendly color mask.

    SlashDot has a strange Halloween Geek Test and iPod-O-Lantern.

    InfoSync describes developments in Communicating clothes. Apparently France Telecom has invented a flexible fiber optic system that can be embedded in clothes. Static or animated graphics can be displayed.

    The optical fibers are woven into fabric. Users can download all kinds of visuals or make their own. France Telecom sees the technology being used by public safety (firemen and police), advertising, the automotive industry, interior decoration (furniture and wall fitting applications), fashion and leisure activities (like roller blading at night).

    They anticipate embedded textile screens will be in everyday ware, such as bags, scarves, clothes and furnishings. Then they may start communicating with each other.

    ElWire is easy to work with and fairly cheap. Glowire.com and Coolight.com have more info. A 4 foot preassembled flexible EL cable and power inverter in choice of cool colors is $23.00. Five-foot PC Lightstrips are $35.

    Electroluminescent Wire consists of a concentric series of layers. The phosphor is the key element of EL wire; it emits light when subjected to an AC field. Here’s a detailed description of making a Tron Costume. A life-size translucent skull with Elwire might make a cool AP for Halloween. Here’s Gadget’s Art Day.

    • The AtoMIC from IRCAM is an analog-to-MIDI converter with 32 analog inputs, eight digital inputs, and eight digital outputs triggerable by MIDI system.

    • Donald Buchla’s Lightning uses optical sensors to detect the position of light-emitting wands in space. Buchla’s latest instrument, the Marimba Lumina, has trigger pads and strips that can be played with mallets and includes a built-in synthesizer.

    • The DIEM Digital Dance System is a set of wearable bending sensors that communicate with a wireless transmitter. The receiver outputs MIDI that can be processed with Max. Check out the detailed description of a piece by Wayne Seigel.

    • Doepfer makes the CTM64 kit which can generate MIDI messages from up to 64 free contacts. It also supports up to four potentiometers for generating common MIDI controllers and pitch bend.

    The upcoming IEEE P1639 MIDI standard from the IEEE Standards Association will transmit music data over Ethernet-based networks or 802.11 wireless devices. P1639, based on the 20-year-old MIDI standard, which stands for musical instrument digital interface, will also be able to send more music data than before and do it faster.

    The goal of the standard is to allow personal computers to be better integrated within a musical performance, explains Member Phil Kerr, chair of the IEEE P1639 Working Group and a researcher at the Centre for Music Technology at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, U.K.

    Poynter points to more Halloween resources.

    WiFi Detector with LCD Info

    Glenn Fleishman of WiFiNetNews, mentioned yet another tiny WiFi detector (the $35 Hawking Detector), and mused out loud what he really wanted:

    What I’m waiting for (and Gizmodo is, too) is a detector with a small LCD that scrolls through the open and closed SSIDs found in the neighborhood. We want a WiFi Sniffer–a WiFi Wardriver on a keychain.

    An hour or so later, Fleishman updated his site. It seems the new $49 Digital Hotspotter has just what he wanted.

    “First generation” analog Wi-Fi detectors, including the $29 Chrysalis WiFi Seeker, $29 Kensington WiFi detector, and $28 Smart ID WFS-1, didn’t have an LCD screen and couldn’t tell you anything about the detected hotspots.

    The Digital Hotspotter “is the only device of its kind that provides essential information about wireless networks”, including; Network ID, Signal Strength, Encryption Status and Channel.

    Of course none are as fun/useful as TV-B-Gone.

    Voices of Iraq

    For the documentary Voices of Iraq, Iraqis received 150 video cameras and were asked to film whatever they wanted. The result is a rare look at daily life in Iraq — the tragic, the joyful and the mundane. Filmmakers Eric Manes and Archie Drury talk with NPR’s Michele Norris.

    Hello Peace is a free phone service that lets Israelis and Palestinians start talking again. World-Wide Walkie-talkie service, first available on Nextel, is moving to cellular networks.

    JotSpot is an easy way to capture and archive email conversations. Simply “CC:” a wiki page and the email is automatically attached to that page. Websites can receive MMS messages by using the mms2web.com unique MMS conversion engine which receives, converts and transfers MMS messages directly to your website.

    Airblogging can handle journal or blog posts from your mobile phone, via email or sms. It’s free and it lets you post pictures or text entries to your blog or journal.

    Perhaps TypePad or Blogger with photo editing software might enable everyone to create Photostories or Muvees and share them world-wide. DailyWireless has more on Video Blogging. Podcast a Daily Show.

    The global smart mob. Unfiltered, broadband, wireless. It’s a tool. A virus. A superpower.