WiMAX Vendors Trying To Fight The Backlash
By Mike Masnick, Mon Mar 14 21:30:00 GMT 2005

If last year was the year of WiMAX hype, there's plenty to indicate that the first couple months of 2005 were all about WiMAX backlash. Vendors in the space are starting to realize that it's time for results, not hype.

In the wireless industry over the last year, it's been hard to avoid the media infatuation with WiMAX -- often (inaccurately) described as "Wi-Fi on steroids." Many in the press figured out (or were told) just enough to be dangerous, and then started writing articles assuming that any broadband wireless technology was WiMAX or that pre-WiMAX equipment already was WiMAX. As the year wore on, a few started to notice problems in the WiMAX story. The standard still wasn't approved. The technology was complicated. The spectrum wasn't available and (the biggest issue of all) the version of WiMAX being approved was only for fixed, not mobile, wireless broadband. In other words, it would be useful for backhaul, but unlikely to be the revolutionary available-everywhere broadband wireless Internet access force that the press seemed to expect.

These stories contributed to the growth in WiMAX backlash, culminating earlier this year when stories came out about delays in the certification process pushing back availability of certified WiMAX equipment even further. While some in the space tried to spin the story positively, many realized it was time to regroup. At last month's 3GSM conference, WiMAX was barely mentioned. It was there, but many realized that it made more sense to be quiet than to continue the hype.

While WiMAX's number one fan, Intel, has continued to overhype the technology well beyond what it will be able to do, others appear to have realized the right way to fight back against the backlash is to prove that WiMAX can actually do something. That is, no longer focus on the hype, but get something to market as fast as possible.

That means getting stuff done. Specifically, that means getting the stuff done that everyone knows is delaying the process and delaying possible acceptance of the technology. Since the certification process has been delayed, three vendors in the space, Alvarion, Redline Communications and Airspan Networks, have agreed to start interoperability testing on their own. This is something that needs to be done, and they figure there's no reason to wait for the certification process to go through. If they can get the interoperability tests out of the way it helps speed up the process of getting these products to market, while also showing that the vendors really are making some kind of progress.

Meanwhile, as providers begin to ponder whether or not it's worth signing up to use fixed WiMAX or wait for the mobile version, more companies are trying to get the mobile version of WiMAX moving forward as quickly as possible. The latest is that LG and Nortel are working to build products based on 802.16e, the mobile version of WiMAX. While it might still be a little early to be pushing mobile WiMAX products, the message they're clearly trying to get out is that mobile WiMAX really is coming -- something that some have worried incumbent interests will try to stop. This follows a similar announcement from Alvarion announcing plans to push forward with mobile WiMAX offerings as quickly as possible. While mobile WiMAX remains a bit of vaporware, at least these vendors are now focused on what's important: not the hype about how wonderful it will be, but getting by all of the various hurdles and getting WiMAX offerings to market, where they will finally be able to compete. Then, people can really determine whether or not WiMAX was worth all of the hype -- or the backlash.