U.S. lags in WiMAX deployment

The United States accounts for but a tiny fraction for the as-yet small market for WiMAX technology, but industry representatives say the expected emergence of equipment operating in U.S. frequency bands later this year will help bolster demand in this country. "There has been a little bit of a cloud over the market," because of the lack of certified products, said Carlton O'Neal, vice president of marketing for Alvarion. "The market has been relatively small."

Alvarion should know, as it claims 80 percent of the WiMAX market, with deployments in more than 30 countries--but none in the US. The reason: standards-based equipment is not built for frequencies licensed in the U.S., and manufacturers are not making equipment for those frequencies because there is no demand for it. Instead, the U.S. sees fixed broadband wireless connections being provided primarily with proprietary technologies, accompanies by pre-standard WiMAX tests and experiments. "Europe and Asia are where the greatest opportunities for WiMAX are," said Jeff Orr, the WiMAX Forum's director of marketing. "For fixed wireless access, North America is not in the top three regions."

Alvarion's O'Neal highlights three requisites for broader adoption of WiMAX in the U.S.: Development of standards with certified interoperable products, availability of licensed spectrum and self-installing, self-configuring customer premise equipment.

"The stars now are coming into alignment," he said. O'Neal said more than 90 percent of WiMAX deployments today have been in the 3.5 GHz frequency band. That band is reserved for government and military use in the US, and commercial carriers who use the 2.3 and 2.5 GHz bands are waiting for vendors to develop products in those frequencies. Alvarion said last year it hoped to have a 2.5 GHz version of its BreezeMAX product available later this year. That schedule has slipped, but O'Neal said it probably would be available later this year. Alvarion's current 3.5 GHz version is undergoing certification testing and should complete the process this year.

For more on the state of WiMAX in the US
-see William Jackson's GCN report

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