On the Hot Seat with Ron Resnick

Ron Resnick, president and chairman of the WiMAX Forum, has a lot to be happy about as mobile WiMAX enters 2008 poised for some massive rollouts. I recently spoke with Mr. Resnick about what's in store for the technology, including the debate between WiMAX and LTE, how operators can make money and work being done on global roaming. -Lynnette

FierceBroadbandWireless: What are you expecting at the CTIA show this year in terms of the apparent debate between WiMAX and LTE?

Resnick: Let's take a step back and look at last year when Vodafone challenged the [GSM ] membership to be prepared for WiMAX. This year in Barcelona, CEO Arun Sarin proposed some sort of convergence between the two, and he's giving a keynote at CTIA. Bottom line is that in one year, WiMAX has become a formidable player in the ecosystem and is now recognized by world's largest operators. It's not just a technology. There is a presence now. We are seeing at least 260 deployments in 110 countries. The view I'd say that I have is that WiMAX has happened and LTE is still two to three years out. It's so difficult to create metrics when one is just launching and the other is in the future.

The performance of WiMAX and LTE are very similar. So to me it's not about technology. It's about the fact is there is one technology available that operators can get a leg up on while the other technology is not coming out for two to three years. It's a very interesting situation operators are put in because they have to decide whether to wait or deploy now.

FierceBroadbandWireless: What are your views on the convergence between WiMAX and LTE in terms of one 4G standard?

Resnick: WiMAX now has its place. It's an IMT-2000 technology. It's global. Should there be one technology in the future? Would everyone agree that should happen? If so, how does it happen and what is the execution plan? Whatever gets decided on for 4G-and we think a great choice is 802.16m-it needs to be backward compatible to 802.16e … I think it's wonderful if we can make that happen whereby we figure out how to take the two and make it work so that no one loses. That is basically is what my view of the world is.

FierceBroadbandWireless: How do you see WiMAX players making money in this new mobile broadband world?

Resnick: To me, Sprint is a poster child that the world should be focused on to see how they are making money through an open Internet model. What I look at is all the goodness that Sprint is doing and for understanding an open internet model-about how to place different devices under one billing cycle and how to push WiMAX in consumer electronics products. This is an exciting time to see what happens. WiMAX is the proponent of an open Internet as opposed to what seeing in the past with a more of a walled garden approach. A number of operators say they are looking at an open model. The fact that operators made that claim is a testament to WiMAX.

Like I said, there are 260 networks but what makes Sprint highly visible is that they've been very creative. But there are other locales where WiMAX is flourishing. Korea Telecom, with its WiBro service, expects to have 400,000 subscribers by the end of this year. Their performance is now excellent. KT has some very good models and one is definitely cost-effective access. You have to take a look at what the cost is. In Europe, you're paying about $35 to use HSPA and receive about 2 gigabytes. WiMAX allows for much more capacity and an open Internet and unlimited data access model. That doesn't mean operators won't sell additional services. Google is doing this with Sprint. Microsoft and others will offer some very innovative services and interesting revenue-sharing plans. The operator has knowledge the content provider would like to have and allows for more of an opportunistic and win-win model for open Internet that needs to be developed. Everyone should be voting for Sprint's success because it's more than Xhom. It's the open Internet model and how consumers win.

FierceBroadbandWireless: The WiMAX Forum recently announced an FDD profile for the 700 MHz band. Is the forum looking at other FDD bands?

Resnick: If operators and vendors say there is now a requirement for FDD or TDD in a certain band and there is a market for it, the WiMAX Forum will approve it. There's no random decision to create profiles. It's based on a market survey and needs. As long as demand is there we can expect to see more FDD profiles coming out.

FierceBroadbandWireless: Can you give us a bit of education about 802.16m-its capabilities, standardization schedule?

Resnick: We're targeting the closure of 802.16m as a standard by the end of 2009. Our goal is to have 802.16m as part of the IMT Advanced standard. Then you'll see mobile WiMAX system profiles, called 2.0, in the 2010/2011 timeframe, It's going to be TDD and FDD and handle channel bandwidth 5, 10 and 20. Peak data rates per sector are expected to be 130 Mb/s s for the uplink and 56 Mb/s on the downlink based on a 20-megahertz channel. Mobility will be supported at 350 kilometers per hour. It will have high spectral efficiency using 4 by 4 MIMO. It's going to be a major upgrade in allowing broadcast video, peer to peer video communications, smoother handoffs and location-based services built in. It will have excellent capabilities for VoIP.

FierceBroadbandWireless: Where is the forum in terms of working on roaming?

Resnick: We have plans to announce roaming availability soon. Operators can launch in the second half of this year. We're enabling roaming by providing the right tools so operators can do it from the get go as opposed to what we're seeing other markets where roaming came after the fact. We've been working on this for two year. We have spent a lot of money on developing roaming agreements, available at no cost to the operator. We built in roaming specifications. It's critically important for the WiMAX Forum to make sure it works.