Patrick Duncan is Alvarion's Managing Director for APAC operations. A resident of Singapore, Patrick has lived and worked in a number of countries within Asia-Pacific, including Australia, China PRC and Hong Kong. Mr Duncan has 18 years experience in the telecommunications industry, of which 16 years were with Lucent Technologies. At Alvarion, he is responsible for increasing its customer base of service providers and supporting a combination of channel partners including strategic OEMs, network integrators and wireless deployment services partners throughout the region.
WiMAX delivers broadband wireless access over a radius of up to 30 kilometres. WiMAX Metropolitan Area Network coverage is similar to that of mobile networks. WiMAX’s point-to-multipoint microwave economically reaches areas poorly served by wired networks. WiMAX is used for last mile broadband access, to link WiFi and mobile networks to the carrier infrastructure, and high-speed enterprise connectivity. Through standardisation, WiMAX changes broadband wireless access from a niche to a mass market, bringing the economic benefits of a mass-market product.
WiMAX is the latest industry buzzword. It is on everyone’s lips. Not surprising really given that Sean Mahoney, of Intel, described it as "more important than the Internet itself". An industry analyst firm, Pyramid Research, called WiMAX "the latest and most-hyped generation of fixed wireless technology in years". Statements such as these are enough to arouse the interests of most people in the industry. Yet, WiMAX is not anything new. It is an evolution of Broadband Wireless Access, which has been used throughout Asia for over ten years now. Still, just because it is not new does not mean we should not be excited about WiMAX. It will enable operators to reach new businesses and residential customers in areas poorly served by wired infrastructure, where building or upgrading wired networks is not economically viable. What is WiMAX? Put simply, WiMAX technology, based on the IEEE 802.16 and ETSI/HiperMAN specifications, is the latest in broadband access technology. It provides long-range high-speed data and voice services. Just as the term WiFi became associated with the IEEE 802.11 standard, WiMAX has become synonymous with the IEEE 802.16 standard. A WiMAX Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) uses a configuration similar to that of a mobile network, with base stations strategically located to provide metro-area coverage via Point-to-Multipoint (PMP) microwave links. WiMAX: √ Is used for a number of applications including last mile broadband access, hotspot and cellular backhaul for carrier infrastructure and high-speed enterprise connectivity; √ Is designed to provide E1-level bandwidth to businesses and the equivalent of cable/DSL access for home users; √ Enables expandable carrier-class solutions that support thousands of users with a single base station, while providing differentiated service levels; √ Enables service providers to economically reach new businesses and residential customers in areas poorly served by wired infrastructure. The WiMAX Forum The WiMAX Forum began in 2003. It is an industry-led, non-profit association of equipment manufacturers, component suppliers and service providers. The Forum promotes industry-wide adoption of the IEEE 802.16 and ETSI/HiperMAN wireless MAN air interface standards. It also certifies WiMAX equipment and establishes the conformity, interoperability and compatibility of fixed, portable and mobile IP-based broadband wireless products and services. Today, the Forum has more than 200 members, including Intel at the helm, Alcatel, Alvarion, AT&T, BT, Lucent, PCCW and Siemens. WiMAX vs WiFI WiMAX takes a major leap over WiFi by providing last-mile broadband connectivity over a much larger area, ranging up to a 30 kilometres radius and offers the features consistent with the stringent demands of operators in a wide variety of deployment scenarios. WiMAX also facilitates continued growth of WiFi hot spot deployments by providing an economic backhaul solution. WiMAX-based solutions exhibit a number of key technical advantages: √ Superior Non-line-of-sight (NLOS) performance; √ Extended operating ranges; √ Flexible channel bandwidth for both licensed and unlicensed frequency bands; √ High channel capacities; √ High bit efficiency of more than 3b/s/Hz; √ Built-in Quality of Service (QoS) for a range of applications and services. A number of proprietary wireless MAN solutions are available, with some even providing selected features and capabilities offered by the WiMAX standard. However, when the complete feature set is considered, WiMAX outperforms proprietary solutions. Understanding the implications of standards Currently, each solution is customized. It does not operate with other solutions. In the standardization process, the ‘rules’ are set and every solution tested according to those criteria. The second stage of the process is when three vendors bring their standard-ready solutions to the laboratory and test the equipment's interoperability. At the end of this process, every piece of WiMAX Forum Certified equipment will be interoperable with other WiMAX Forum Certified equipment. WiMAX Forum Certified means a service provider can buy equipment from more than one company and be confident about the interoperability of the equipment. Advantages of standards With the existence of proprietary solutions, the question arises whether the WiMAX standard is a market necessity. This is particularly relevant given that some proprietary solutions can deliver superior technical performance on a specific feature compared to their standards-based counterparts. There are several arguments for and against the adoption of industry standards. Typical reasons cited against the implementation of a standard include: √ Time-consuming process: the process of developing a standard is time consuming, often lasting many years. While it drags on, market needs are unfilled or, alternatively, operators turn to other technologies; √ Lowest common denominator: to gain mutual agreement on a standard from all players with a vested interest, the standard gravitates to what is acceptable to most manufacturers. Therefore, the resulting solution may not satisfy user requirements; √ Lack of innovation: forcing vendors to conform to an industry-wide standard potentially deprives the market of more innovative solutions. Typical arguments in favour of the adoption of an industry standard include: √ Wide-scale adoption: standardization drives mass markets; √ Reduced production costs: standards-based solutions are less expensive to develop and produce, since equipment manufacturers do not need to develop or outsource every unique component, as they often must with proprietary solutions. As a result, manufacturers enjoy economy-of-scale advantages; √ Reduced deployment costs: the resulting lower equipment costs drive down network deployment costs for the operator. This also results in lower end user costs; √ Reduced development risk: equipment manufacturers face smaller development risks, since they are no longer dependent on application-specific chips, devices and other critical components produced in lower volumes; √ Reduced supplier dependence: operators are at higher risk with sole-sourced solutions. Standards-based solutions enable operators to source interoperable systems from multiple vendors. In conclusion, WiMAX Forum certification will foster a more competitive industry with lower costs and faster growth for broadband wireless worldwide. The WiMAX experience While the development of industry standards is often a time-consuming process that discourages innovation, the WiMAX experience has been anything but that, featuring rapid development and innovative solutions. The IEEE 802.16 family of standards supports variations, giving vendors the opportunity to provide state-of-the-art, differentiated solutions and still comply with standards. In the absence of an approved standard, several vendors have provided wireless MAN solutions over the past several years to meet market demands. WiMAX not only avoids the main disadvantages of industry standards, but also is set to deliver powerful advantages. With worldwide endorsement of WiMAX and proven equipment interoperability, the standard will provide a range of compelling benefits to all players in the industry value chain. WiMAX in Asia-Pacific Pre-WiMAX networks have been operational throughout Asia Pacific for over ten years now providing voice and data services in both rural and urban areas where there is no existing telecoms infrastructure, or where it is old or saturated and would not be cost-effective to upgrade or replace. For example, Wireless Broadband is used by all of China’s largest telecoms companies as well as regional Government (tax bureaus, security offices, water resources), education (universities, institutes, academies), large enterprises (oil fields, banking companies, power and mining companies), transportation (state road, ferries, harbours, airports) and shopping centres. The arrival of WiMAX will drive down the costs of equipment and enable wireless networks to be built in regions of Asia that were previously economically unviable. While proprietary wireless MAN solutions will continue to exist, for the most part they will fill specialized market needs. Industry-wide adoption of the WiMAX standard will lead to lower-cost, widely available products for the mass market. Operators will be able to choose solutions from multiple vendors, enabling the deployment of standards-based wireless MAN networks suited to particular environments and applications, while lowering their costs and improving their bottom line. WiMAX will provide attractive benefits to all players in the industry value chain, from chip set providers, to equipment vendors, to network operators, to end-users. Adoption of the WiMAX standard and the WiMAX Forum’s efforts to ensure its success, will greatly encourage the growth of broadband wireless markets worldwide. Eventually, WiMAX will eliminate the remaining barrier to providing broadband access to millions of potential users in under-served markets across the globe. WiMAX is the most cost-effective solution for delivering broadband everywhere. Standardization will change the broadband wireless access market from a niche market to a mass market, bringing all the economic benefits that accompany a mass-market product.