WiMax Gear Clears Standards

As Sprint and Clearwire prepare for a nationwide rollout, hardware receives certification from WiMax Forum.

From dongles to chips to base stations and receivers, the WiMAX Forum June 18 approved 10 products for the 2.5GHz profile. These products are the first WiMax gear to receive clearance for use in the United States.

Approved were products from Airspan Networks, Alvarion, Beceem Communications, Intel, Motorola, Samsung, Sequans Communications and Zyxel Communications.

Alvarion, Motorola, Samsung and Sequans each received the WiMAX Forum Certified Seal of Approval for a 2.5GHz base station, while Airspan, Beceem, Intel, Samsung, Sequans and Zyxel each received the Forum's certification for a 2.5GHz mobile station module.

"With the successful completion of extensive 2.5GHz testing, we've laid the groundwork to speed up additional profile certifications and ultimately to continue advancing global WiMax deployments at a record pace," Ron Resnick, president of the WiMAX Forum, said during a news conference.

Notably absent from the first list of certifications is gear from Aperto Networks, Alcatel-Lucent, Nortel Networks or Nokia Siemens Networks, although Resnick said the WiMAX Forum is now ready to speed up the testing cycle for all equipment in the future.

For Sprint and Clearwire, the certifications can't come fast enough, as the companies plan to begin deploying WiMax by the end of 2008 in the Washington-Baltimore, Chicago and Portland markets. Motorola, Samsung and Nokia Siemens are working closely with Sprint on the nationwide rollout.

Sprint revived its once beleaguered WiMax network in May by bringing in investors from tech and cable companies to merge Sprint's XOHM division with Clearwire, the wireless broadband provider founded by cellular legend Craig McCaw. The new company will operate under the Clearwire name.

Among the heavy hitters investing in the venture are Intel, Google, Comcast and Time Warner. Time Warner will invest about $1 billion in the new company, while Comcast plans to contribute a little more than $1 billion. Intel is putting up $550 million and Google $500 million.

Upon completion of the proposed deal, Sprint, the nation's No. 3 wireless carrier, will own the largest stake in the new company, with about 51 percent equity ownership. Existing Clearwire shareholders will own about 27 percent of the venture. The new strategic investors, as a group, will be acquiring about 22 percent of the new Clearwire.

The new Clearwire is planning a national network deployment targeted to cover as many as 140 million people in the United States by the end of 2010.

Since staking out a claim on WiMax as its technology of the future in August 2006 and announcing a tentative WiMax partnership with Clearwire a year later, Sprint has struggled to get the project off the ground, until announcing its new marriage with the tech and cable giants.

For Comcast and Time Warner, the investment opens the door to offer bundled services including wireless to compete with AT&T and Verizon. Google aims to become Sprint's preferred mobile search provider, and Intel will provide chips, networking gear and software for the new network.