WiMAX Inches Ahead

"Silicon is being tested now," Dick Davies, Fujitsu spokesman said Monday. The current two-chip prototype is expected to be packaged into a single-chip solution in January. The solution will integrate PHY (Physical Layer) and MAC (Media Access Control) functionality, he said. "Fujitsu has been working with systems guys. It's possible we could see some very selective implementation in a year."

WiMAX, which can blanket entire cities and whose range can reach up to 10 miles, is still controversial with vocal backers and detractors. One supporter is Intel, whose CEO Paul Otellini has said that WiMAX could overshadow DSL and cable in much the same way that cell phones have supplanted many landline users. On the other hand, Cisco Systems chief technology officer Charles Giancarlo has questioned the value of WiMAX " he believes it will rollout in a parallel way to 3G wireless systems that could make it superfluous.

In a white paper released Monday, Fujitsu discussed many of the challenges still facing WiMAX before it is likely to be widely adopted. Referring to WiMAX as a "4G" wireless technology, the white paper discussed the pros and challenges of WiMAX ranging from problems in developing silicon to the difficulty of allocating frequencies.

"The WiMAX standard is set to bring the long-awaited spectral efficiency and throughput to meet users' needs for combined mobility, voice services and high data rates," the white paper states. "It will enable access for more users due to its non-line-of-sight capability, lower deployment costs, wide range capability and penetration into the mass consumer market with lower CPE costs as a result of standardization and interoperability."

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Meanwhile, Wi-LAN announced its Libra MX with WiMAX capability at a wireless broadband show in England. The firm said the Libra MX is a platform that meets WiMAX requirements that will provide "a guaranteed, economic and straightforward migration path to WiMAX compliant networks.

"Libra MX is the only available solution that uses the same version of OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing) that is required for WiMAX certification," said Wi-LAN President and CEO Sayed-Amr El-Hamansy, in a statement, adding that his company "guarantees WiMAX performance today and standard compliance and interoperability tomorrow." When the WiMAX-compliant gear is ready, customers need only plug a WiMAX blade into base station equipment, he said.

The technology is likely to see widespread use in suburban and rural U.S. markets and in developing countries like China where existing telecommunications infrastructure is backward, Davies said.