US rollout of WiMax technology looms

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The first wireless broadband services based on the emerging mobile WiMax standard are likely to be launched in the US sooner than expected, according to senior executives from Samsung’s US telecommunications unit.

The Samsung executives, led by Jeong Han Kim, president of Samsung Telecommunications America, said they expect at least one major North American mobile carrier to adopt the technology next year.

“We expect mobile WiMax to be adopted in North America in 2006,” said Tom Jasny, in charge of Samsung’s wireless and broadband network systems division in the US.

The Samsung executives said they had held discussions with a number of telecommunications groups and other companies interested in the mobile version of the WiMax technology.

Although they did not identify the companies most likely to adopt mobile WiMax in North America first, Samsung has long-standing technology relationships with Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel – the two leading US network operators that use Qualcomm’s CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technology.

This month Sprint Nextel, the recently merged third largest US wireless carrier, and Samsung said they would begin laboratory and field trials of mobile WiMax early next year.

Under that agreement, Samsung will deliver mobile WiMax equipment including base stations and access devices starting in the fourth quarter, said Mr Jasny. Trials with customers will follow in early 2006.

Like other US carriers, Sprint Nextel is evaluating a range of internet protocol (IP) based broadband wireless technologies capable of delivering next generation broadband services as well as low cost voice over a relatively large geographic area.

In the US and Europe, fixed and mobile WiMax services are likely to be rolled out using the licensed 2.5Ghz spectrum. WiMax technology based on the 802.16 standard is backed by a large consortium of global companies, including Intel and Motorola of the US.

Aside from existing wireless carriers, fixed-line telecoms groups and cable operators are interested in the technology, which might enable them to bundle additional services for customers. Samsung is involved in two WiMax mobile service deployments in South Korea and has several agreements to begin field trials with carriers worldwide. The world’s first commercial mobile WiMax service, called WiBro, will start next April in South Korea.

In the Korean rollouts, the technology is configured to deliver users up to 3Mbps (Megabits per second) with minimum rates of 512Kbps (kilobits per second) and an average of about 1Mbps – similar to a fast cable or DSL internet connection.

Samsung executives believe North American carriers will also require about 1Mbps for their next generation mobile data services – considerably faster than the speeds available on 3G networks they are launching.

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