Keep Waiting (And Waiting) For WiMAX
By Mike Masnick, Wed Jan 19 03:15:00 GMT 2005

While the press and many people still seem to think WiMAX is already available, it turns out we have to wait even longer. The certification process has been pushed back at least six months -- and part of the blame is being place on WiMAX's number one supporter: Intel.

While less-than-clued-in reporters have been reporting WiMAX implementations for years, they always seem to forget one basic fact: there is no certified WiMAX equipment yet. For a long time, there wasn't even a standard. So, all of those stories about how WiMAX was being implemented were all about proprietary non-standard equipment that operators and vendors hoped, one day, might possibly be upgraded to WiMAX.

That was supposed to change shortly, after the WiMAX Forum set up its certification lab and ran its "plugfest" to guarantee interoperability and compliance with the standard. There's just one problem: no one's actually ready to do the plugfest yet. In other words, everyone needs to wait quite a while longer before any real WiMAX implementations occur.

The biggest holdup is that Intel and Fujitsu haven't released any WiMAX-enabled chips for anyone to build into their equipment. It's hard to have any WiMAX without the silicon. This is somewhat ironic, given that Intel has been the leader in pushing WiMAX to levels not seen in quite some time.

Of course, the article notes that vendors aren't waiting for the certifications to go through, and are starting to push out "pre-WiMAX" or "WiMAX-class" equipment, none of which is actually WiMAX. Almost all of these are proprietary solutions that will require upgrades to really be WiMAX -- so operators who buy into these offerings are betting on the idea that these vendors really will be able to upgrade the equipment to WiMAX and that such upgrades won't be costly or create any problems for an existing network. Those are some big questions, partly because meeting the WiMAX spec is not going to be easy -- and going to market with something that is pre-WiMAX doesn't mean the vendor will be able to quickly make the necessary changes.

However, what it will mean is that reporters who haven't followed this story closely or who don't do any research or fact checking, will start publishing even more stories about WiMAX deployments that aren't. While the people pushing WiMAX may think this is a good marketing concept, it's only going to create trouble when the non-standard, non-compliant technology doesn't work right or doesn't work with other non-standard, non-compliant WiMAX technology.