Standard for Mobile WiMax Official

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Call it what you want — IEEE 802.16e, or Mobile WirelessMAN — apparently it’s now official. The draft of the specification before the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.16e Task Group (a subset of the 802.16 Working Group (WG) working on Wireless Metropolitan Area Networks in general) got approval from the Standards Review Committee on the IEEE-SA Standards Board. This is according to a post made by Roger Marks, the WG chairman, made on Dec. 7 on a 802.16 WG e-mail archive, and first reported at GigaOm.com.

The standard was actually finished weeks ago on September 22, but had to go through the final stamp of the Standards Board before publication.


802.16e will likely be renamed 802.16-2005.

Marks said in his e-mail, “this action brings to a close the work of Task Group e and its project that began with the approval of the original 802.16e PAR in December 2002, following its development by the Mobile WirelessMAN Study Group beginning in July 2002.” He says the projected time frame of approval in 18 months took about twice as long to arrive, partially because the WG grew from only 82 members originally to 310 today.

802.16e went through 12 drafts and ended with a 684 page standard that received 99% approval.

The current 802.16-2004 standard is for fixed wireless broadband, meaning the end-user isn’t expected to be in motion when using the signal (unlike, for example, a cellular phone user). After several delays, gear is still under its first round of testing with the Cetecom Labs in Malaga, Spain. No actual certified WiMax equipment is available as of this writing. However, many vendors call their equipment pre-WiMax and imply the potential to upgrade to an interoperable version.

Fixed WiMax is more like a wireless version of your DSL or Cable modem connection at best. 802.16e will add mobility to the technology down the road, though there’s no guarantee that 16-2005 will be backward compatible with 16-2004 currently in the pipeline.

The WiMax Forum, the industry consortium of vendors and chip makers that want to make interoperable wireless broadband products both fixed and mobile, can now start trials with mobile equipment in 2006. Some companies are already announcing products in the category. Others, such as Navini, have been doing proprietary versions of wireless mobile broadband for some time, and only announced it would support mobile WiMax last year.

Don’t expect any actual services using mobile WiMax until well into 2007, or maybe even 2008. On his TechDirt Wireless blog, analyst Mike Masnick said, “Now that the mobile WiMax standard has been approved, don’t think you’ll be seeing any actual mobile WiMax for years to come. Companies first need to make chips and equipment to meet the standard (which might not be as easy as they’d lead you to believe). Then, you have to go through the plugfest/certification process, which, if the ‘fixed’ certification process is any indication, will take quite some time.”