Mobile WiMAX Products Finally Arrive — So Everyone Claiming They Were Offering Mobile WiMAX Has To Scramble

from the so-what-was-all-that-prior-WiMAX-stuff? dept

It wasn’t all Singapore Slinging (of mud) at WiMAX Forum Asia Congress 2008. There was some real progress to mention coming out of the show last week. The Forum has announced the certification of the first 8 products that are fully mobile WiMAX compliant, and it’s been a long time coming. This is good news for network providers that have been counting on high-scale-economies for standards-based kit, with which they can deploy their networks. The WiMAX Forum says that 2.5GHz kit will likely be certified later this year. 2.5GHz is of particular interest to Sprint Xohm, which is currently working with non-certified gear.

And what were all the prior announcements that WiMAX certification was available? Well, this 2005 announcement was regarding fixed WiMAX, and this 2006 announcement was really about a suite for equipment makers to test their products in development. But that’s behind us, there is now real Mobile WiMAX equipment available. Finally.

But, if certified mobile WiMAX gear is only available as of this week, what were all those other “mobile WiMAX” network announcements you’ve been hearing for years? Turns out many of them were what boosters dubbed “pre-WiMAX”. But pre-WiMAX turns out to be defined as “not really WiMAX at all but I’m eager to get on the bandwagon.” This massive reality gap between pre-WiMAX and standards-based WiMAX is illustrated by a recent story in which Clearwire Chief Strategy Officer Scott Richardson says “…Clearwire may use dual-mode devices to support both technologies [pre-WiMAX and WiMAX] and may overlay WiMAX equipment on its existing markets.”

Dual-mode equipment and overlays? To manage an upgrade from “pre-WiMAX” equipment to “WiMAX” equipment? What he’s really saying is that the older Nextnet-made gear is simply NOT compatible with WiMAX (i.e., it’s NOT WiMAX and never was), and it eventually needs to be forklift-upgraded out. If this stuff was really just “pre-,” then it should have taken no more than a software upgrade and a tweak or two to make it standard WiMAX (much like 54G was pre-G, or pre-n was basically = n WiFi). It’s funny that the WiMAX bandwagon was so attractive, that companies that were absolutely not using WiMAX felt the need to call their solution WiMAX. Apparently it brought more press coverage, more public enthusiasm, and easier access to capital. But, it didn’t mean they were actually offering WiMAX.

Filed Under: , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Mobile WiMAX Products Finally Arrive — So Everyone Claiming They Were Offering Mobile WiMAX Has To Scramble”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Nick says:

WiMAX Deployments

There are several major deployments out there, Sprint did a big test roll out in Chicago that got a lot of press, and lots of WISPs are using WiMAX type equipment from Breezecom and Airspan in the cities.

WiMAX tech is real – all that other stuff was 802.16-d (i.e. Fixed WiMAX) which is NOT software upgradeable to 802.16-e (i.e. Mobile WiMAX)

However, WiMAX is NOT what the hype has said it would be. I remember in 2003 people talking about “70 megabits at 70 miles” and that is just downright impossible. Realistically you can get 10-20Mbps up to about 3kM from the tower, and ~5Mbps up to maybe 5-8kM from the tower. Past 8kM the performance starts dropping off like a rock, and it just won’t work worth a piss past 12-14kM.

Alaric says:


Major WiMAX issues

1) horrible interference management
2) Inefficient MAC (very bad)
3) High Latency
4) Uplink budget sucks (due to ofdma (PAPR), 1, and TDD)
5) Exceedingly poor N=1 performance
6) Cannot do mobile VoIP reliably in N=1 config
7) Expensive PA due to PAPR (effects all OFDMA)
8) Dubious handoff quality on WiMAX
9) Very poor handoff mechanism 3G/2.5G to WiMAX
10) Poorly defined core network
11) Spectral efficiency worse than HSPA in loaded network
12) “We evolve quicker than 3GPP” Not really.

Should i go on. Its sub optimal and that is why they are doing two things; 1) pushing 802.16m, 2) Hype, hype, hype until 802.16m arrives.

In the end and you should consider this

Anon says:

What issues?


Can you give me some background on how you arrived at your observations about WiMAX technology issues? We’ve been testing a WiMAX deployment in the middle of the U.S. for some time now without any of those problems you mention, and I’m curious to know why our experience is so different from yours.

We’re actually fairly impressed with this WiMAX stuff, given the fact it’s still wireless technology at the end of the day. 8Mbps down, 3Mbps up avg., optimal signal fades off about 9 miles out, still usable up to 14 miles away. The largest logistical issue we faced at installation was getting a large enough Internet pipe into the base station to service the rural deployment. In short, don’t tell me it doesn’t work – we’re already doing it!

FWIW, We’re running an Airspan fixed (802.16d) 3.65GHz deployment. I’m told that an upgrade to the mobile standard 802.16e (as soon as the standard is ratified and the product survives testing and certification) will require one additional server component and a software upgrade.

AC says:

Note that the devices that were announce to be certified for mobile WiMAX are 2.3 GHz devices, mainly for Asian markets. The WiMAX Forum press release states the 2.5 GHz certifications (for the US WiMAX carriers) will be later this year.

As to a 3.6 GHz fixed WiMAX deployment in the US, I’d like to hear more about that… my undertanding was that the FCC rules didn’t allow for the use of WiMAX in 3.6 GHz spectrum in the US.

wirelessman says:

There’s truth to both Alaric’s comments and Anon’s experience with 3.65 GHz 802.16d.

First, consider Alaric. He is correct that mobile WiMAX will not support true 1:1 frequency reuse, in large, multi-cell deployments. Mobile WiMAX does have a “fake” way of doing 1:1 called segmentation where a 5 or 10 MHz channel can be divided into three independent segments (each with 1/3 of the OFDMA sub-carriers), which are then used for 1:3 reuse. It looks like each sector in a cell is using the total bandwidth but it’s not really 1:1 reuse; just a nifty way to get 1:3 reuse from a single channel. Real 1:1 is not possible because there’s just to much interference, even with all the fancy antenna processing concepts. The standard multi-cell deployment for moWiMAX will be 1:3, which means that carriers really need 15 or 30 MHz of spectrum to do anything reasonable.

I think the comment of the MAC being very bad is not fair. I’d characterize it as mediocre but comparable to HSPA and LTE. The latency is also not bad. I’m seeing ping times on best effort data ranging between 50-100 ms (this is on 2.5 GHz mobile WiMAX gear that’s in the certification pipeline). I think the HSPA numbers are much worse right now (remember, in 3GPP, most of the MAC resides in the RNC, not the nodeB). And VoIP that uses the moWiMAX QoS mechanisms (e.g. UGS) will get great latency (one way voice latency should be less than 40 ms).

The UL link budget comment is spot on, particularly the effect of TDD. When you’re constrained by UL coverage (which is ALWAYS the case), turning your transmitter off half the time isn’t helpful. This is where LTE will kill moWiMAX. With SC-FDMA in the UL and FDD, LTE will have an almost 10 dB UL link budget advantage, which is HUGE.

Anon, the reason you’re not seeing these problems are probably:

1) you don’t have a dense, multi-cell deployment where frequency reuse and interference is an issue
2) you may be using outdoor CPEs which give you a much more benign UL link budget
3) you’re rural deployment may be quite flat and you have a nice tall tower, leading to great RF propagation (hence the big coverage area)
4) you’re BS is lightly loaded with subs so MAC inefficiency isn’t as big an issue as in a dense deployment.

There’s a big difference between a dense urban or suburban deployment covering a thousand square km with 100000 CPEs doing mobility indoors vs a lightly loaded rural deployment with external CPEs. As with most technologies, your mileage may vary.

Toods says:

WiMax is an unproven technology with questionable support beyond Sprint and Intel. Network World reports that Sprint has soft-launched WiMax networks in Chicago, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., so it’s possible that Apple will build in the hardware in preparation for Sprint’s nationwide rollout in April, I had tried something like wifi hopper. This would be a huge win for WiMax, which suffered a blow when Sprint and Clearwire abandoned plans for a WiMax joint venture.

alaric says:

What issues

The issues have been explained pretty well by wirelessman.

I’ll add a few things. A lot of those issues are performance compared to HSPA+, EV-DO Rev B, LTE, UMB. So WiMAX does offer better performance in many regards against HSDPA and ev-do Rev A, though not a huge capacity boost unless you employ mimo on wimax and not the others.

Some of the issues become evident in a loaded multi-cell environment, particularly my complaints about interference management and N=1 issues (WiMAX’s get N=1 through fractional frequency reuse).

Others become more apparent in a mobile setting. Latency on the handoffs is apparently pretty high and combination of N=1, mobile handoffs, and loaded cells is apparently a pretty unstable and unreliable one.

Latency is also an issue for one of WiMAX’s advertised apps…mobile backhaul. No one will use it for mobile backhaul because the per hop latency is 10s of milliseconds and that is too high for that app.

If you have a fixed deployment and/or a lot of spectrum, and most fixed carriers do have a lot of spectrum, then you can make it work. You’ll also notice that intel and WiMAX are hot and heavy over MIMO. That’s because they use it as a bandaid to compensate for limitations elsewhere.

But…..certain WiMAX 802.16e weaknesses are an absolute deal killer for major mobile carriers (the ones that don’t have FCC coverage deadlines or who don’t get Intel capital for new spectrum in japan).

Those killers are the uplink budget and the N=1 performance in mobile setting. HSPA+ is really better than WiMAX in most regards. You can argue that Uplink budget is not an issue since mobile cells are small in places like Europe and Japan but that also effects capacity and QoS.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...