To that end, most of the carriers that have voiced plans for WiMax are those that serve underdeveloped countries. Domestic carriers, as well as some major hardware vendors, including Nokia Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc., have yet to commit. "There are no specific product plans for WiMax," said Bill Rossi, vice president and general manager of Ciscos wireless networking business unit, in San Jose, Calif., which has dabbled in fixed wireless services in the past. While WiMax makes sense in terms of its performance, Rossi said, "Its not about the technologyits about the carriers."The forum expects to begin testing products in March, with commercial availability expected the following June. Eventually, there will be a mobile version of WiMax, which will allow roaming between base stations and act essentially as a much-faster version of Wi-Fi. This will be based on the 802.16e protocol, which wont be ratified before next year. Products based on 802.16e wont likely hit the market before 2006. Intel plans to include 802.16e support in its Centrino chip sets between 2006 and 2007, depending on the ratification schedule, said officials in Santa Clara, Calif. The Centrinos focus is mobility, not fixed wireless, but the WiMax road map necessitates standing before roaming. "The long-term goal for Intel is on the e-market, particularly on the client side," Proxims Duffy said. "But in order to get to e, you have to get the base-line technology. We have to work together first to get d." The spectrum on which WiMax will run, 2GHz through 11GHz, is a wide swath. The WiMax Forum this month announced plans to issue usage models among three specific licensed and unlicensed bands, with official designation profiles expected in September. Some prospective customers said that they remain pragmatic about WiMaxs time frame and cost but that they definitely see a potential need. "My sense from the industry analysts is that WiMax will not be deployed until 2006 and will likely cost $200 per month when initially released," said John Halamka, CIO of CareGroup Healthcare System, in Boston. "Ive not heard from any of our major carriers that they are planning a WiMax rollout at this point. But there certainly is a need for increased wide-area wireless bandwidth. At present, GSM/GPRS [Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service] is just too slow for clinical transactions such as e-prescribing, and [Wi-Fi] is too physically limiting." Check out eWEEK.coms Mobile & Wireless Center at http://wireless.eweek.com for the latest news, reviews and analysis.
Client and back-end products based on 802.16d are expected to hit the market in the middle of next year, according to the WiMax Forum, the multivendor industry association tasked with interoperability testing. (Nokia, a founding member, pulled out of the forum earlier this year.)