In a presentation given by Dr. Albert Yeh, VP of OvisLink Corporation, some harsh words were spoken on the upcoming network standards. OvisLink Corporation is mostly known as the umbrella company for the AirLive brand, progressive networking brand that is gaining a lot of ground on emerging markets, thanks to innovative products such as WMU-6500FS, device more know as the pr0n box, “smart” hard drive enclosure that includes integrated BitTorrent, iTunes, e-Donkey and similar clients.
Getting back on the subject, main aspect of the presentation was put on manufacturing ecologically sustainable devices. This should be achieved by using environmentally friendly and recycled materials. Talking about recyclable components is quite an interesting twist, but goes in line with current “green” trend.
Big change in attitude was talk about challenges that face network equipment and mandatory support for multi-standards. Future lies in heterogeneous combination between different networks, and this is the place where Dr. Yeh sees biggest challenge (or a threat) for WiMAX.
Standard cellular networks developed beyond spectrum of what WiMAX can offer. WiMAX is coming out with Phase 1 offering 23/4 Mbps (download/upload) speeds. Phase 2 (second generation) will offer 46/4 Mbps. This sounds all good and candy dandy if you do not look at long-term roadmaps for 3G/4G (3GPP UMTS, LTE) and CDMA.
For instance, HSDPA (3.5G) standard today offers anywhere between 7.2 and 14.4 Mbps on cellphones, while future HSPA Evolution brings speeds of 28/11.5 Mbps, offering much higher upload bandwidth than WiMAX. But things get worse in next couple of years, when telecoms are scheduled to start implementing 3GPP LTE (Long Term Evolution). AirLive received a lot of questions from Telco operators in Europe and Asia about LTE devices in 2009 – and we’re talking about theoretical bandwidth of 100 Mbps down the airwaves and 50 Mbps up. If 3G LTE ends up at 50% of promised speed, there is a winner of mobile standard wars.
In the world of CDMA2000 standard, EVDO Rev.B features speeds of 14.7/4.9 Mbps for upload and download, while Rev.C is scheduled for next year. Verizon Wireless, Sprint, Nextel are all looking at EVDO Rev.C which should offer… you’ve guessed it right – 100 Mbps down, and 50 Mbps upstream.
According to Dr. Yeh, in current phase of development, engineers from unnamed Japanese company managed to achieve 50 Mbps download and 50 Mbps upload in LTE trials. If the 100/50 Mbps target is reached by the time standard starts its deployment, world of handheld communication may turn on its head.
This also yields danger for all of home networking equipment industry. If concepts such as Wi-Fi Access Point on Nokia cellphone succeed, why would telecoms even bother with WiMAX and building more expensive infrastructure? 3GPP LTE/4G equipment will come at a price premium, and leading telecom operators want to minimize current maintenance hell caused by simultaneous support of existing 2G (GSM), 2.5G (GPRS), 3G (EDGE/UMTS), 3.5G (HSDPA, HSUPA) and upcoming 3.5G (HSPA Evolution, 28/11.5 Mbps) and LTE (3GPP LTE, 4G) networks.
AirLive sees the future of home networking as the combination between 3GPP LTE/4G networks with available RF infrastructure, such as 802.11n (Wi-Fi). There is also huge opportunity in recently held 18.6 billion USD auction for 700 MHz band here in USA, with similar thing being planned in Europe.
WiMAX as we know today has to evolve and stop riding the multi-GHz band. If WiMAX wants to survive against 3GPP LTE and 4G, standard body will have to move WiMAX into former analog TV spectrum or face the fact that mobile communication standards will surpass cellphones and invade homes as well. Initiative for WiMAX @ 700-800 MHz already exists, and it comes from Europe.
At the end of the day, I believe that future lies in combination between 4G and standard Wi-Fi, since WiMAX is looking less and less appealing. In my home country of Croatia, it is quite normal thing to have 3.6-7.2 Mbps HSDPA link on a cellphone (flat rate data package is another thing, though). Whenever I land back here in California, my Blackberry 9000 Bold cannot get more than 300K using AT&T’s UMTS connection. That’s the life in Silicon Valley.