It’s All Mobile Now

Wed, 02/28/2007 - 2:55am
Brad Smith

The WiMAX world is quickly leaving the fixed market behind. It will continue to exist for some years, but all the emphasis among infrastructure manufacturers is rapidly shifting to mobile WiMAX. Most of the WiMAX hardware makers are talking about their new 802.16e products at WiMAX World 2006, including Aperto, Nokia, Starent, Alvarion, Airspan Networks, and Adaptix.

Aperto, a founder of the WiMAX Forum, plans to support both fixed and mobile standards with a set of base stations and subscriber units that can be used by an operator to migrate from 802.16d to 802.16e, according to Manish Gupta, marketing vice president. Gupta says the new products are an extension of an existing line of pre-WiMAX and 802.16d PacketMAX hardware being used already on 200 networks in 70 countries. He says Aperto’s early customers deployed fixed WiMAX but may want to migrate or simply add mobile capabilities.

“We see a hole in the market,” Gupta says. “Vendors are complying with one of the other standard and are not flexible enough to support both.”

Using the Intel chipset for both air interfaces, Aperto is building subscriber devices that can be used initially for fixed WiMAX and then, with a software change, migrate to mobile WiMAX. Aperto also has adapted its PacketMAX base station architecture to accommodate the 802.16e radios, allowing operators to provide service for both fixed and mobile from the same base station, Gupta says.

The company also has a management and provisioning system that supports both standards so the service provider can use the same console to manage the two standards simultaneously or separately, he says. Gupta says Aperto expects the 16e products to be certified in early 2007, with availability by the middle of the year. Nokia is showing off its new Flexi WiMAX Base Station, leveraging the company’s long history in wireless networks. The unit is small enough and uses minimal power so that it can be easily installed outdoors or indoors, requiring no air conditioning. Its modularity allows for easy upgrades as traffic increases, the company says.

Nokia says the first of its WiMAX base stations will be built for the 2.5 GHz spectrum and will be available by the end of 2007, with a 3.5 GHz product ready in the first quarter of 2008. Nokia also plans WiMAX mobile devices in 2008. The Finnish company says its WiMAX products will work with the Nokia Unified Core Networks and IP Multimedia Subsystem architecture for converged networks. On the network front, Starent Networks announced its Access Service Network Gateway and Home Agent for mobile WiMAX providers. Both products are deployed on Starent’s ST16 Intelligent Mobile Gateway, providing service continuity across different radio access networks.

Gennady Sirota, Starent’s marketing vice president, says the ASN Gateway and HA leverage the company’s expertise in mobile packet core networks already being used by 60 carriers in 25 countries for their 3G multimedia core networks. Sirota says Starent is in the process of solidifying trials with carriers and working through the certification process for the two products. The ASN Gateway is a subscriber access gateway for the IEEE 802.16e mobile WiMAX network, Starent says, providing a connection point between the access service and core connectivity service network that concentrates subscriber traffic from base transceiver stations.  Its primary responsibilities are providing mobility services to mobile IP-aware and simple IP user access devices and processing of subscriber control and bearer data traffic.

The ASN Gateway connects to an HA, which acts as the anchoring point for a subscriber session as the subscriber moves through the network. For carriers with multiple networks, such as cellular and WiMAX, the Starent ASN and HA provide an anchor point that is air access independent, Sirota says. Alvarion is talking about its new BreezeMAX 2300 and 2500 base stations for the 2.3 and 2.5 GHz spectrum.
The new platforms, based on BreezeMAX products that have been on the market since 2004, are expected to be available in the fourth quarter. Airspan Networks says shipments will start in the fourth quarter for its HiperMAX Base Station portfolio.
The products include the HiperMAX and HiperMAX-Micro base stations for 3.4-3.6 GHz FDD, 3.6-3.7 GHz TDD and 4.9 GHz TDD frequencies. Airspan says it plans HiperMAX products in the future for the 3.3-3.4 GHz, 3.4-3.5 GHz and 3.5-3.6 GHz TDD bands and will have a 2.5-2.7 GHz product in the second half of 2007. The HiperMAX products were recently part of the Mobile WiMAX Forum PlugFest.

Adaptix announced the pricing and availability of its compact mobile base stations and mobile terminals for mobile WiMAX. The company’s BX-3000 series of base stations are priced starting at $19,995 for a single-sector configuration, with three-sector configurations starting at $39,995. Adaptix also announced that its BX-3000 base station and San Francisco-300 mobile terminal participated in the recent WiMAX Forum interoperability PlugFest.


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