IEEE Approves Next Generation WiMax Standard

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The IEEE standards body has given the nod to 300Mbps WiMax mobile broadband

A speedier version of WiMax has been officially approved by the Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), but the decision comes as the 4G technology struggles to hold its own against LTE (Long-Term Evolution).

The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) Standards Board announced that is has approved IEEE 802.16m, which is also known as WirelessMAN-Advanced (or WiMax-2). The new standard promises to be able to deliver downstream speeds of more than 300Mbps.

This decision comes after the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) officially recognised both LTE-Advanced and WirelessMAN-Advanced as ‘true’ 4G technology back in October last year.

Four Year Effort

According to the details, “IEEE 802.16m incorporates innovative communications technologies such as multi-user MIMO, multicarrier operation, and co-operative communications.”

It will also apparently support femto-cells, self-organising networks, and relays.

“Major worldwide governmental and industrial organisations, including ARIB, TTA, and the WiMAX Forum, are adopting this standard”, the IEEE said.

“We are delighted that IEEE has recognised the completion of this comprehensive technical effort that has involved hundreds of creative and diligent professionals from over twenty countries during the last four years,” said Dr. Roger Marks, chair of the IEEE 802.16 Working Group.

“Our organisation was able to efficiently harmonise these innovative technologies into a clear set of specifications guiding the future development of the mobile broadband marketplace,” he added.

However IEEE 802.16m is facing a tough fight from a relative newcomer, namely LTE.

WiMax vs LTE

Previous versions of WiMax have been around for many more years than LTE. But many of the world’s mobile operators have instead opted for the latter, as evidenced by the recent news from O2 of its successful small trial in Slough, where six cell towers apparently are now capable of handling the same volume of traffic of O2′s entire 3G network in the UK.

And O2 is by no means alone in opting for LTE over WiMax. Other operators such as TeliaSonera and Vodafone have been major proponents of LTE, and in the US Verizon Wireless recently launched its LTE network in December.

This has led some analysts to believe that LTE will be the ultimate winner. In February research firm IHS iSuppli stated that LTE is expected to pass WiMax as the worldwide 4G flavour of choice by 2012.

According to IHS iSuppli, WiMax finished 2010 with 6.8 million subscribers, while LTE had just 700,000. In 2011, WiMax is expected to remain ahead – totalling 14.9 million to LTE’s 10.4 million – but by 2012 LTE is expected to grab a significant lead, totalling nearly 50 million subscribers to WiMax’s almost 22 million.

WiMax Networks

However WiMax has made inroads in certain countries such as the United States via a national rollout of networks thanks to Sprint Nextel and its wholly owned unit, Clearwire. But even Sprint has admitted that LTE will be bigger in the long run, when last July Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told the Financial Times that it was considering rolling out LTE alongside its WiMax 4G offering.

Over on this side of the pond, Freedom4 (formerly Pipex Wireless) launched a WiMax network in Milton Keynes back in December 2007. It also has a WiMax network in Stratford upon Avon. But, in June last year, Freedom4′s WiMAX spectrum licence in Great Britain was sold to UK Broadband for £12.5 million. The other British WiMax licence holder is UK Broadband (a wholly owned subsidiary of PCCW – Pacific Century CyberWorks).

Meanwhile, some WiMax networks are still appearing. In December it was announced that a WiMax network would connect rural residents in the small Scottish county of Clackmannanshire to the outside world.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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