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WiMAX Forum tackles global spectrum issues

Jun 14, 20042 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork Security

* 802.16 group seeks economies with spectrum consensus

The WiMAX Forum has formed a Regulatory Working Group (RWG) in an attempt to harmonize the use of spectrum worldwide for use in budding 802.16-based last-mile broadband wireless-access (BWA) networks.

The WiMAX Forum is somewhat analogous to the Wi-Fi Alliance for 802.11 wireless LANs.

802.16 runs in licensed and unlicensed bands below 11 GHz. Its aim is to eventually be an airborne alternative to wired DSL, cable modem and T-1 services. There are two flavors of 802.16: 802.16d (formerly 802.16a) for fixed BWA and 802.16e for mobile BWA. The regulatory work applies to both.

The RWG’s goal is to streamline and harmonize global 802.16 spectrum use so that the technology can achieve the economies of scale required to drive prices low enough that 802.16 radios-on-chips can be bundled right into laptops, says Margaret LaBrecque, WiMAX Forum RWG chairperson and director of industry programs in Intel’s broadband wireless division.

The three frequencies likely to survive for 802.16 fall in the 2.5, 3.5 and 5 GHz ranges, so “we need a single piece of silicon with three radio filters in these bands,” she explains. The 5 GHz band is license-exempt, while the 2.5 and 3.5 GHz bands are licensed.

Unlike North America, quite a few countries haven’t adopted the 5.72 – 5.85 GHz band for 802.16 networks, including countries in the European Union. Some of the countries that have adopted it, such as Singapore, have done so at lower wattage (power). On a country-by-country basis, the world’s regulators need to iron out how to harmonize the bands and the allocation rules so that rules in the spectrum evolve as broadband wireless usage evolves. 

LaBrecque notes that regulatory issues of this nature often require one to three years to resolve. She anticipates the 5 GHz issues to be ironed out quickly, but that the 2.5 licensed bands to possibly take three years or more to fall into place. 

She anticipates the first WiMAX-certified fixed outdoor 802.16 products to ship in the first half of 2005, while the second half of 2005 should yield shipments of fixed indoor products (all non-line-of-sight products).