MANHASSET, N.Y. After years of disparaging the IEEE 802.16 standard upon which the WiMax Forum is based, Navini Networks has opted to ditch the competing 802.20 spec it previously backed and join WiMax. The move comes a day after Flarion Technologies, a competitor and fellow 802.20 member, announced successful trials in North Carolina with Nextel.
Flarion's successful trials means little to Navini CEO Alastair Westgarth, who said he is convinced that momentum is clearly behind WiMax and not 802.20. "We had no interest in 802.16 until it started work on 802.16e for mobile access, which addresses issues we had with respect to the use of phased-array antennas and also line of sight," he said.
According to Westgarth, 802.16 has made the most progress, adding that "802.20 will have a hard time catching up."
Much of the momentum derives from a massive marketing campaign instigated by Intel early last year. Intel sees WiMax as complementary to Wi-Fi wireless LANs by providing a low-cost backhaul for hotspots. For its part, 802.20 targeted mobile broadband applications that would compete with 3G cellular.
However, the 802.16e version under development also addresses high-rate mobile access, thereby making 802.20 potentially redundant. "The 802.16 and 802.20 groups will be having their next meeting simultaneously in China in May [17-20] and I think it will be interesting to see what happens to 802.20's membership then," said Westgarth, hinting at a possible migration of members to 802.16e.
Navini already offers carriers a product line based on the ATIS, T1P1.4 standard an adaptive beam-forming, portable non-line-of-sight broadband solution similar to the functionality envisioned in 802.16e, which is expected to be ratified by the IEEE later this year.
While that system uses a synchronous CDMA scheme, it will migrate to 802.16e's OFDM scheme in two stages, said Westgarth. The first will involve switching software on its current FPGA/DSP-based systems to accommodate as much of the standard as possible. "These we will call '802.16 Lite' and although they won't have full-strength coding or support as many carriers, they will connect to an 802.16 network," he said. Future equipment will be fully compatible with 802.16 and will start shipping in mid-2005.
Navini's differentiation will rest with its phased-array antenna and performance in high-noise environments.
While Westgarth said Navini will not be abandoning 802.20 completely, he added the only way the company would return is if, "there was a massive migration to it, and I don't see that."