Wi-Fi optimize

WiMAX: Don't forget about interoperability

We learned some hard lessons about Wi-Fi device incompatibility. Let's not make the same mistake with WiMAX.

Shawn Morton's post about 4G networks convinced me that it is time. Time for what you say? It's time to start making sure we don't repeat the same mistakes we did when 802.11 equipment first came out. Remember trying to get devices from two different vendors to play nice together? I sure do. The memories aren't fond ones either.

Wi-Fi Alliance

Fortunately, in 1999 the Wi-Fi Alliance was formed by the following six companies: 3Com, Aironet, Intersil, Lucent Technologies, Nokia, and Symbol. The alliance's purpose is clearly defined in the mission statement:

  • Deliver the best user experience by certifying products enabled with Wi-Fi technology.
  • Grow the Wi-Fi market across market segments and geographies, on a variety of devices.
  • Develop market-enabling programs.
  • Support industry-agreed standards and specifications.

A year later, Wi-Fi Certified interoperability testing of 802.11b devices began and the alliance's membership grew to 36 companies. Today, there are over 5000 Wi-Fi Certified devices and compatibility is no longer an issue. It is a tribute to the foresight and diligence of all those involved.

Back to the present

We are on the brink of another wireless revolution, one that will forever change how we view Internet accessibility. Everywhere high-speed access will be the norm. Like other disruptive technologies, varied opinions on how to do that abound. Hopefully agreements will be reached. So we don't repeat previous mistakes.

To that end, an organization called WiMAX Forum has emerged and their mission statement has a familiar ring to it:

"The WiMAX Forum is the worldwide consortium focused on global adoption of WiMAX and chartered to establish certification processes that achieve interoperability, publish technical specifications based on recognized standards, promote the technology and pursue a favorable regulatory environment."

Certification

In order to obtain the "WiMAX Forum Certified" designation, devices must pass the following tests:

  • Mobile Test Suite
  • Mobile Radio Conformance Tests
  • Mobile Interoperability Test
  • Radio Requirements Test
  • Radiated Performance Test
  • Network Conformance Testing
  • Infrastructure Inter-Operator Testing

The above tests were derived from the 802.16 standard. I asked an engineer friend of mine about the tests. He mentioned that the Mobile Interoperability Test interested him the most. If I understand correctly, it's where mobile devices are tested in how they react to different networks.

Availability

Looking at the WiMAX deployment map , you can determine if there is a working WiMAX network near you. One thing I noticed from the map is Europe is well ahead of United States.

Check the list

The important thing is if you have a need for a WiMAX device, make sure your choice is certified. The forum has a listing of all certified devices. Clicking on the individual device will bring you to a new page that provides more detailed information.

Final thoughts

WiMAX as a technology is going to be more ubiquitous than Wi-Fi. Potentially, WiMAX could replace Wi-Fi and possibly 3G. That ups the ante on reliability and compatibility, making the WiMAX Forum an important facilitator.

About

Information is my field...Writing is my passion...Coupling the two is my mission.

14 comments
mheartwood
mheartwood

Much of the existing wireless infrastructure is based around 802.11. Last year, Ubiquity (ubnt.com) introduced their new AirMAX radios. These are 802.11n radios that have a similar kind of TDMA technology as WiMAX. More over, the AirMAX radios are suppose to be compatible with the existing 802.11 radios. But with this technology, it permits WiMAX-like performance when available but it is still interoperable with the older 802.11a/b/g systems. Does not this convergence of technologies provide better interoperability while also rendering WiMAX redundant?

conceptual
conceptual

Te deployment map doesn't show anything for Chicago. We have Clear already in service and I believe Sprint is in deployment

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

Thanks for the really useful map which chops off about three quarters of South Africa! Plus the helpful link which takes you to... the same map. Woot woot!

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

That the devices are WiMAX certified. Then you will know for sure.

AndrewFisher
AndrewFisher

A link at the top of the deployment map leads to a key "How to read WiMAX maps". This explains that each pin represents a WiMAX deployment in a particular country and is located at the headquarters for the company doing the deployment. So the pin for ClearWire is located at their US headquarters in Washington, although they provide service much more widely than that.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I am not sure what stipulations WiMAX Forum has for getting on the map. I will certainly ask though.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

That is why I included the link to the map so people could see the whole thing. I added the complete map to the post originally and it was too small to make any sense. Certainly did not want to short change anyone.

mryanaz
mryanaz

It is great to see the WiMax folks learn from the mistakes made in the TAPI world, the 802.11n world and the SIP world. All 3 of these technologies suffered because they lacked a certification standard....the SIP working group says it is working on a cert suite. USB works due to standards. 802.11a, b & g and now n work because of cert tests. Markets like having standards if the objective is growth.

CMichaelLeeD
CMichaelLeeD

The new tri-mode chipset, which includes WiMax and LTE, should really open up the handset options, regardless of carrier. After long and very bad experiences with both Verizon and AT&T I am eagerly awaiting the new 4G Android from Sprint/HTC this summer...

wanharris
wanharris

How do we know the map given is the latest? Is there any site that could shows the development stages of using WiMax? Or is it just a mere concentration between Europe Vs US only?