• United States

BWA inches forward on standards front

Feb 12, 20032 mins
MobileNetwork SecuritySmall and Medium Business

* Broadband last-mile success requires infrastructure resolution

Earlier this week, I mentioned that the IEEE 802.16 committee has made new standards inroads. It has ratified the 802.16a standard for broadband last-mile nonline-of-sight wireless networking in the 2 GHz to 11 GHz frequency bands. And it has begun work on 802.16e to add mobility to the IEEE specifications.

If you were an early reader of this newsletter (which launched in 2000), you might recall that I once wrote more frequently about this industry segment, also called fixed broadband wireless access (BWA) or wireless local loop (WLL). I had high hopes for BWA/WLL delivering broadband connectivity to the masses and serving as a back-up alternative to primary terrestrial links in branch offices.

Given that this newsletter is aimed at those of you who purchase wireless network services and customer equipment, though, I reduced my BWA/WLL coverage when the players became mired in infrastructure snafus. Much BWA/WLL activity has been happening that is important in its own right, but it has pertained primarily to the infrastructure equipment makers and their own potential customers: the network operators responsible for delivering services and access equipment to you.

Today, there are some commercial services, but they are relatively few and far between.  Some of the sticking points:

*  There has been a plethora of fixed network infrastructure equipment but until very recently a lack of standards. Together, these factors fragmented the industry and overwhelmed wireless network operators who balked at equipment investments.

* The emergence of wireless technologies that support 1M bit/sec-and-up speeds in both fixed and mobile modes has further complicated the above situation. Suppliers here are companies such as ArrayComm, Flarion, and IPWireless. Such technologies could be considered competitors to BWA, 3G and possibly 802.11, and they have seen successes in a number of trials and in small commercial deployments. But they remain to be proven by a very large service provider contract.

* 802.16e is now emerging for connecting base stations to mobile devices. 802.16e should definitely give 802.11 technology a run for its money in public access networks (e.g., hot spots). Competition of this sort is a good thing, so long as network operators don’t assume one option will be “the winner” and the other will be “the loser” and refuse to invest in either because they don’t have a crystal ball. The infrastructure suppliers can only hang on for so long before they dry up financially.