BT Group is running a trial of pre-standard WiMAX, the broadband wireless technology that promises to compete with 3G cellular networking in data rates and accessibility, provided standardization and spectrum licensing progress fast enough.
BT is using equipment from US vendor Navini Networks for the trial, which it is running in the 2.5GHz frequency band under a special license exclusively for testing from UK regulator Ofcom. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based vendor is providing CPE kit, PC cards and base stations for the test, which is expected to run till the end of this year.
The variety of WiMAX being trialed is Mobile WiMAX, for which the future standard is presently called 802.16e. Fixed WiMAX, for which the standard has been ratified, used to be called 802.16d and is now 802.16-2004, and is designed for wireless backhaul in cellular or WiFi networks.
A spokesperson for London-based BT said the carrier is also running a trial of point-to-multipoint wireless broadcasting technology from another WiMAX pretender, Alvarion, in the 5.8GHz band, where the data flow is unidirectional, from one source to many, and is received on antenna outside buildings. The Navini technology is designed to go inside buildings too and is bidirectional.
The spokesperson played down the significance of the trial, saying that BT routinely looks at different technologies and 802.16e is still some way away from becoming a standard. We’re talking years, the spokesperson concluded.
Still, it is interesting that, so soon after mobile operators Verizon and Vodafone revealed talks with laptop vendors to embed 3G chips into their products (EV-DO in the case of Verizon, W-CDMA or, most likely, HSDPA for Vodafone), thus putting a question-mark over the future of Mobile WiMAX, a trial by BT is announced. The UK carrier is actually the second incumbent looking at Navini’s technology, the first being US RBOC BellSouth.