Nokia rejoins WiMax Forum

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Nokia rejoins WiMax Forum

Nokia has said it is rejoining the WiMax Forum a month after the company quit the organisation.

At the company's annual Connections event this week, general manager of its networking business Sari Baldauf said Nokia decided to leave because WiMax had no impact on its plans in the short term, but then changed its mind because of heavy involvement in the forum by the rest of the telecoms industry.

"The decision [to leave the group] was perhaps made too much on a practical basis rather than with regard to what the rest of the world is doing," Baldauf said.

Some industry observers said the U-turn looked like a move to associate the company with a high-profile technology to please investors and analysts, at a time when Nokia was struggling to shore up its handset market share.

The WiMax Forum is the standardisation group pushing the IEEE 802.16 family of wireless broadband technologies. It currently has 105 members including Alcatel, AT&T, BT, Fujitsu and Intel.

802.16 and WiMax are an effort to bring a hotch-potch of fixed and mobile wireless broadband efforts together under a single standard. Eventually it will result in low equipment prices through commoditisation.

Mobile equipment makers such as Nokia, are more interested in the mobile 802.16e standard. But even WiMax's most vocal backers, such as Intel, say 802.16e equipment won't be around for several years.

Some analysts speculated that the company was concerned WiMax would compete with Nokia's 3G efforts.

Nokia was one of the most high-profile founding members of the forum: it created the group last April along with Intel, Fujitsu and specialist wireless players such as Alvarion.

The forum's success is such that equipment maker Navini Networks, which formerly backed the rival 802.20 standard, recently switched camps, while telecommunications heavyweights such as BT, France Telecom and Qwest Communications International have also come on board.

Alcatel has announced the first 802.16d equipment using Intel chips, which should appear later this year and be ratified next year.

The WiMax Forum members, chiefly Intel, have gone to great efforts to promote WiMax as the way to standardise both fixed and mobile broadband wireless networks, but the reality is that only fixed systems will be in use in the near future, say industry analysts.

As a result, companies interested in using WiMax as a replacement for or complement to fixed technologies, such as DSL, are flocking to join the forum, while those interested in mobility are keeping their distance.

Matthew Broersma writes for Techworld.com

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