Wimax to 'overtake Wi-Fi' in public networks by 2010

By 2010, Wimax will replace Wi-Fi as the technology of choice for public wireless networks, as barriers currently preventing widespread adoption are removed, analyst firm Gartner has predicted.

By 2010, Wimax will replace Wi-Fi as the technology of choice for public wireless networks, as barriers currently preventing widespread adoption are removed, analyst firm Gartner has predicted.

"There are two particular attractions of Wimax for municipal networks: wider area coverage than Wi-Fi and operation in licensed as well as unlicensed spectrum," said Ian Keene, research vice-president at Gartner.

Last month, the Wimax Forum tested key mobility features such as such as handover, or "roaming mobile" - where a terminal is handed off between two base stations, simulating a mobile environment.

Although some low-cost products have been tested for compatibility with the 802.16-2005 Wimax standard, Keene said these were not expected to become available until late 2007, and integration into large numbers of PCs and PDAs was not expected before 2010.

Nathan Burley, an analyst with Ovum, said, "The technology is less specified than comparable 3G broadband technologies, and it will take time to develop the scale economies essential to compete with 3G."

A survey of 538 IT decision makers by Forrester Research found that 50% were not interested in rolling out Wimax as part of expanding their enterprise network and telecoms infrastructure, and only 6% had deployed it.

However, the technology is being used as the wireless backhaul part of some mesh networks, and fixed Wimax is being deployed for wireless links to municipal buildings. In addition, Pipex Wireless' second commercial trial of Wimax services went live in Warwick last month.

Analysts agree that key to the technology's success will be the allocation of spectrum for its use. The 2.5GHz spectrum could be used for mobile Wimax networks in the UK, although competing for that space will be other high-speed broadband technologies. Industry regulator Ofcom is expected to auction this spectrum in early 2008.

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