Whither WiMAX, WiBRO and 802.20?

, posted: 7-Apr-2006 12:17

In New Zealand, the battle for competition on the fixed local loop has been won by the incumbent; that is, LLU hasn't happened here, unlike in the rest of the OECD, and even if does, it's meaningless now. See TechRemarks article here and Computerworld story here.

Since LLU wasn't going anywhere in New Zealand, wireless has emerged as the one and only hope. However, two of the wireless providers first out the blocks, Woosh and Wired Country failed to make any real inroads in the market. Woosh's fault was picking the UMTS TDD technology from ipWireless but Wired Country could have made it, had not its owners, Counties Power, lost its collective nerve and sold off everything, probably because they didn't understand the data networking business.

Now some providers are holding out for WiMAX, which promises high speeds and cheaper deployment than existing wireless technologies, thanks to giants like Intel backing the standard with their mass-manufacturing muscle.

I've got a WiMAX connection now, which works very nicely - here's the blog entry about it. Since I wrote that, Natcom has improved the upstream so I'm getting around 4.5Mbit/s in that direction now. Clearly, the technology's there and CPE pricing's coming down; even so, providers here aren't flocking to WiMAX for last-mile access to customers. No doubt this is because some reseller providers got burnt with Wired Country and others have watched Woosh wither and not deliver on its promises. It's wait and see but how long?

The Koreans are keener on taking risks however. Sightings of Samsung's WiBro (Wireless Broadband) phones are starting to appear on the 'net and they sound like neat enough devices: the SPH-M8000 promises mobility up to 120kph, 3Mbps download and 1Mbps uploads, Windows Mobile 5.0 and the usual bundle of handheld device features. A test of the Samsung SPH-M8000 can be found at Esato. Very short and incomplete test, but the phone looks far from prime-time ready.

Also, WiBro runs in the 2.3GHz spectrum, which in New Zealand is licensed and used for data and video transmission, so fuhgeddaboodit here.

Meanwhile, CDMA and wireless in general giant Qualcomm is convinced that 802.16e is a dead standard. See The INQ's report here. What is really interesting about that report is the mention of fall-back to GSM for CDMA2000 devices; it may not be so hard for Qualcomm to build a 802.20/CDMA2000/GSM chip set, to "incentivise" cellular providers to deploy that standard.

CDMA seems far from dead, however. Jama has covered the upcoming Rev A, B and C standards for CDMA2000 in the Geekzone forums, but this news item summarises them rather nicely. 200mbps downstream speeds in commercial products by 2008... where does that leave 802.16* vendors? Ironically, it'll be Telecom New Zealand, our dear telco monopoly, that'll bring out Revisions B and C of CDMA here (they're already deploying Rev A together with Verizon Wireless in the States) if anyone will.

Other related posts:
Wannabe wifi jacker pwned
Woosh upgrades to 1Mbit/s
Taipei's citywide Wifi brings converged phones and free calls

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