AT&T Inc has abandoned an 802.16e mobile WiMAX trial in the Netherlands on the grounds that the technology is still too immature to form the basis of a service to enterprise customers.
Martin Silman, executive director of global market portfolio management for the San Antonio, Texas-based carrier, said the Dutch trial started in May. We pulled the plug in September because the security it required involved buffering, which in turn introduced an unacceptable degree of latency, he said. It’s going to take a couple of years for the technology to mature. He said the reason for this is that all the equipment is pre-standard or proto-standard because the certification labs are not yet open for 16e.
The trial in the Netherlands was the fourth AT&T has carried out with WiMAX but the first on the 16e mobile flavor of the technology. Silman said the first three, carried out last year in Atlanta, New Jersey, and Alaska, were all of fixed WiMAX, or 16d.
AT&T’s interest in the mobile flavor of WiMAX is part of its search for ways to deliver fixed-mobile convergence services to enterprise customers. In its home market, the company should soon have 100% control of US cellular operator Cingular, assuming the acquisition of BellSouth goes through, so AT&T could potentially seek to convince its fixed-line WAN customers to go entirely onto Cingular, then deliver FMC entirely on its own networks, wired and wireless.
However, it might opt to work with whichever cellphone company the individual corporate employee has for their personal service, which is the way rival global carrier BTGS has decided to go. The challenge there to the FMC service provider is to incorporate CDMA subscribers because that would require different radios in the dual-mode devices.
The challenge in the rest of the world is on a different scale in that AT&T has no mobile presence there, and so will either have to work with existing operators or buy one of its own, and even then its geographical coverage will be limited.
It currently works with Vodafone in five countries and Orange in four to deliver PBX extension services where the traffic is routed at the earliest point in the connection over its MPLS network and billed by AT&T rather than the mobile operator. However, Silman said it encounters considerable resistance from most mobile network operators, for whom the arrangement represents lost revenue, while corporate customers are keen to get it because it can cut their international roaming costs dramatically, particularly in Europe. The corporate customers usually have to go to the operators and tell them they have to accommodate it if they want to keep the business, he said.
Mobile WiMAX as an alternative wireless WAN technology could enable a carrier like AT&T to bypass this issue, in that it could have its own WWAN to offer, and so could start to look at dual-mode WiFi/WiMAX devices. That would entail a spectrum license, and it’s too early to speculate on the possibility of a Europe-wide license. In any case, at least for the time being AT&T thinks the technology can’t deliver the user experience required.
In the meantime, said John Slamecka, AT&T’s regional VP of EMEA, the company will be extending its WiFi coverage in Europe this year, adding The Cloud to its existing partner base, which already includes companies like iPass.