True 4G Standard WiMax-2 Approved by IEEE

WiMax-2, which also goes by WirelessMAN-Advanced and 802.16m, has been approved by the IEEE. Unlike LTE and HSPA+, it's acknowledged by the ITU as real 4G.

WiMax is getting a boost. Global standards body Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has approved IEEE 802.16m, the wireless standard for the next generation of WiMax, known as WiMax-2, or WirelessMAN-Advanced. The standard potentially could offer downstream speeds of more than 300M bps.

The standard was the work of "hundreds of creative and diligent professionals from over 20 countries during the last four years," Roger Marks, chairman of the IEEE 802.16 Working Group, said in a March 31 statement. "Our organization was able to efficiently harmonize these innovative technologies into a clear set of specifications guiding the future development of the mobile broadband marketplace."

WiMax is the flavor of 4G offered by Sprint, through partner Clearwire, and was the first type of 4G network to debut. While T-Mobile began offering 4G services based on HSPA+ technology in November 2010, and Verizon launched its LTE (Long-Term Evolution)-based network a month later, Sprint, like a number of carriers around the globe, began offering WiMax in 2008. AT&T now also offers HSPA+, though has plans to roll out LTE toward the middle of this year.

Despite WiMax's significant head start, LTE is, by many accounts, expected to become the predominant 4G technology. ABI Research, in a September 2010 report, forecast mobile WiMax subscribers to approach 59 million in 2015, while In-Stat expects LTE subscribers to near 115 million by 2014.

Aware of LTE's popularity, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has said the carrier is considering rolling out an LTE network alongside its WiMax network, and in August 2010 Clearwire announced plans to conduct 4G LTE trials, while again insisting on its commitment to WiMax, at least for the time being.

"As we have consistently stated, we remain technology agnostic, but WiMax provides us with unique advantages to meet the needs of our customers today," Clearwire CTO John Saw said in a statement at the time.

While WiMax, LTE and HSPA+ have all - as far as mainstream branding goes - been accepted as 4G technologies, only WiMax2 and LTE-Advanced, a next generation of the LTE currently offered, meet the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) criteria for being a true 4G technology.

"ICTs [information and communication technologies] and broadband networks have become vital national infrastructure - similar to transport, energy and water networks - but with an impact that promises to be even more powerful and far-reaching," ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Tour??« said in a statement announcing its findings in October 2010. "These key enhancements in wireless broadband can drive social and economic development, and accelerate progress towards achieving the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals."The speedy 802.16m, the IEEE has announced, incorporates multi-user MIMO (multiple input, multiple output), multicarrier operation and cooperative communications, and supports femto-cells, self-organizing networks and relays. It's going to be adopted, the IEEE added, by "major worldwide governmental and industrial organizations," such as the Association of Radio Industries and Businesses, and the WiMax Forum.Sprint, which is the majority owner of Clearwire, has previously expressed interested in WiMax-2. But with Clearwire currently struggling to find funding to keep its WiMax buildout proceeding, and Sprint facing the stress of being dwarfed by AT&T's proposed purchase of T-Mobile, it's unlikely to pursue the technology anytime soon.