WiMAX Forum keeps up momentum with new retail plan

The WiMAX Forum announced a new retail plan aimed at expanding the number of WiMAX devices worldwide and reducing internal operator testing costs.

The plan, called the Open Retail Initiative, entails opening certification labs in the United States, Spain and in parts of Asia to reduce the costs of operator interoperability testing.  It also aims to increase the number of devices--sold through either direct or retail sales channels--that can be activated over the air by consumers on the networks of participating WiMAX operators.

Over the past several days, the WiMAX Forum has stepped up its efforts to deliver the next-generation version of WiMAX, formally known as 802.16m. The standard, which is being marketed as WiMAX 2, promises faster speeds and improved performance. Intel, Motorola and other leading WiMAX vendors--under the banner of the WiMAX 2 Collaboration Initiative, or WCI--are pushing the development of the WiMAX 2 ecosystem and will work with the WiMAX Forum to ensure interoperability.

The moves are in response to the growing data demands of mobile WiMAX users and the perceived threat of TD-LTE, which is being pushed by both Qualcomm and Ericsson in India. Indeed, in an interview with FierceBroadbandWireless, Mo Shakouri, vice president with the WiMAX Forum, said the average WiMAX user consumes close to 10 GB of data monthly--a number he said points to the need for faster, more efficient WiMAX networks.

Analysts, however, seemed hesitant on the news. "Having noted in the past the need for WiMAX vendors to voice their 802.16m R&D plans, admittedly the WCI does just that while suggesting that commercialization will be smoother than if all vendors were operating in a vacuum," Current Analysis analyst (and FierceWireless columnist) Peter Jarich wrote in a research report. "What the WCI will deliver, however, is unclear--scheduled for three to six months away. At the same time, the initiative burdens the WiMAX Forum with yet another work issue to coordinate and the absence of smaller vendors suggests potential problems for the push."

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