WiMAX Forum opens door to harmonization with LTE Advanced

Acknowledging the obvious--that most WiMAX operators are also interested, or already investing, in other radio access technologies--the WiMAX Forum announced that its WiMAX Advanced network evolution roadmap beyond WiMAX Release 1 and Release 2 will accommodate harmonization and coexistence across multiple broadband wireless access technologies.

The group specifically intends to address harmonization of standards within IMT Advanced technologies, which include LTE Advanced and WiMAX Advanced, according to documentation obtained by FierceBroadbandWireless. Specifications for both were announced in January by the Radiocommunication Assembly of the International Telecommunications Union.

WiMAX Release 2.0 is the first generation of WiMAX Advanced. The forum has said WiMAX Release 2.0 certification profiles should be wrapped up at the end of 2013's first quarter.

Under the updated roadmap, the next version of WiMAX Advanced, Release 2.1, will enable WiMAX operators to integrate another radio access technology onto their existing WiMAX network, said the forum. Planned future updates, Release 2.2 and beyond, are expected to enable features such as link aggregation and load balancing.

The WiMAX Forum's core operator community operates networks on 2.3, 2.5 and 3.5 GHz spectrum and serves a customer base in excess of 30 million subscribers. With the roadmap change, the group is aiming to give its membership the technical ability to accommodate multiple ecosystems within a WiMAX network.

"To further its philosophy of openness, the WiMAX Forum's updated roadmap supports a vision of harmonization across available technologies that enable operators to adopt multiple radio access technologies within their service offerings," said Declan Byrne, WiMAX Forum president.

The WiMAX Forum is walking a slippery slope by announcing support for other air interfaces, as this could lead some to believe the group's efforts to support WiMAX are reaching a dead end. However, the forum reiterated its commitment to projects and member ecosystems related to Mobile WiMAX Release 1, Release 2 and WiMAX vertical markets, including WiGrid and AeroMacs.

WiGrid is the WiMAX industry's solution for smart grids and industrial markets. AeroMacs was developed to support Airport Surface Communications and has been selected for use by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration as well as EuroControl in Europe.

According to the WiMAX Forum, most WiMAX vendors already sell base stations that can support multiple radio technologies via software and firmware upgrades. Many vendors can also provide simultaneous multi-carrier capability in their equipment.

Further, mobile and fixed wireless operators around the world already support multiple air interface technologies that run the gamut across 2G, 3G and newer technologies such as LTE or WiMAX, so it's not a huge stretch to envision WiMAX operators adding additional technologies such as LTE Advanced, which includes both the TDD and FDD flavors of LTE. The question is whether operators that make such a move will maintain their WiMAX operations or phase them out in favor of LTE.

Some operators shifting to LTE from WiMAX may find their WiMAX businesses have longer life spans than expected. Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) CFO Hope Cochran said in September that the operator is signing up wholesale customers for its WiMAX network, giving the WiMAX network a "longer revenue tail than I anticipated."

In addition, Clearwire last week significantly slashed the number of TD-LTE sites it plans to deploy next year, saying it will roll out 2,000 sites by mid-year 2013 rather than the 5,000 sites previously envisioned.

Mohammad Shakouri, WiMAX forum chairman, said the forum's decision to harmonize IMT Advanced standards as part of its WiMAX Advanced roadmap reflects the group's commitment to innovation, open standards and low IPR costs. "Our focus is to preserve these fundamental values of the WiMAX Forum and continue to build a powerful and broad ecosystem that addresses the needs of operators and customers worldwide," he said.

Shakouri is also corporate vice president of innovation and marketing at Alvarion, which disclosed in May that the company was exploring options for its struggling WiMAX equipment business.

Last week, Alvarion received notification that NASDAQ had granted it until April 22, 2013, to remain listed on the NASDAQ Capital Market and regain compliance with NASDAQ's minimum $1 bid price per share rule. In order to strengthen its balance sheet, Alvarion this week sold its claims right against Nortel Networks for a total of approximately $5.2 million. On Oct. 1, Alvarion announced the sale of a portion of its patent portfolio for some $19 million.

For more:
- see this WiMAX Forum release
- see this Alvarion release

Related articles:
Clearwire slashes LTE deployment target from 5,000 sites to 2,000 sites
WiMAX Forum President describes roadmap wherein WiMAX, LTE are complementary
Clearwire CFO: WiMAX network to generate more revenue than expected
Alvarion may ditch WiMAX due to plummeting revenues
Is WiMAX 2 ITU nod too little, too late?
ITU sets IMT-Advanced standards, including LTE Advanced and WiMAX 2