WiMAX developer Airspan Networks Inc is to announce a series of products combining wireless LAN (WiFi) for client access and wireless WAN (WiMAX) for backhaul, with one upgradeable to the mobile version of WiMAX (16e).
The Boca Raton, Florida-based company will unveil two new base stations, the MicroMAX SoC and SDR, and the Professional Subscriber Terminal (ProST) dual-mode WiFi and WiMAX access points for the US frequencies 4.9GHz and 5.8GHz. Angela Champness, Airspan’s VP of business development, explained that the ProST has, on one side, an 802.11b/g WiFi radio, and on the other, a WiMAX radio.
The announcement is specifically geared to the US market, and for this reason the ProST comes in two flavors, in terms of the WiMAX radio. One, in the licensed 4.9GHz frequency band, is aimed at the public safety sector (police, fire brigade and ambulance), for whom the MicroMAX SDR is what Airspan calls the base station, though it might also be regarded as a controller in WiFi terms.
This device, explained Champness, is upgradeable from the 802.16d fixed WiMAX connectivity with which it ships today to 802.16e mobile WiMAX, which means that, in addition to WiFi, it will in the future be able to offer direct client access over WiMAX, which will mean much greater range.
The other offering is in the 5.8GHz frequency band, which in the US is unlicensed spectrum used by municipal WiFi. The base station for that application is the MicroMAX SoC, which is 16d-only, i.e. it is not upgradeable to mobile WiMAX.
All these products are US-specific on account of the way the FCC carves up and allocated spectrum. There are already other ProST devices in other frequency bands, as well as other base stations for different geographies, said Champness.
The real competition to these products comes from wireless mesh technology, whose vendors (companies like Firetide, Tropos and Strix) propose using WiFi itself, but in the 5GHz band (i.e. 802.11a), as the backhaul for 11b/g APs.
The problem with that way of doing things, she explained, is that it is a hop-based technology, and anything over two hops adds latency, which of course is not the case for WiMAX backhaul. There are other advantages, she went on.
You get a better link budget [i.e. range] with WiMAX, because it’s a centralized MAC rather than a best-efforts architecture, she said. Capacity is also better, because it is a deterministic, centrally controlled technology, which means you can define QoS centrally in terms of bandwidth, priority, latency and throughput.
Though 802.11a can also be used for backhaul in point-to-multipoint scenarios, she went on, it has limited range and no QoS capabilities.
Without revealing future roadmap, Champness said it was reasonable to assume Airspan will develop other combined WiFi/WiMAX offerings to go into different geographies where the spectrum for municipal WiFi is different. The company also deploys the ProST in the 3.5GHz for muniWiFi environments in Europe, for instance. Champness claimed none of the other WiMAX vendors such as Alvarion or Aperto have launched integrated WiFi/WiMAX products like the current offering.