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I
t is the number one priority for many
mobile WiMAX operators: interoperability
There is lower confi dence
between different vendors’ kit to deliver an
end-to-end network. By being able to choose
among operators on end-to-
between different WiMAX suppliers of end-
end interoperability than what
user devices, base stations (BTSs), ASN (ac-
cess service network) gateways and the CSN
we want it to be
(connectivity service network), operators can
break free of vendor lock-ins and lower their
Torbjorn Ward, Aptilo
costs through competition.
Th ey can also reduce their risk. By not hav-
ing to rely on one supplier for an end-to-end
network, the operator is not totally hamstrung if
that supplier should go out of business or shift s “Th e need for a certifi cation programme is much guarantees fl exibility to expand radio networks
its R&D focus away from WiMAX. greater in the RAN because there are far more and coverage using the most advanced base
A single or ‘turnkey’ supplier may also vendors there than in the core,” she says. “Suppli- stations in various form factors at competitive
not provide all the functionality the mobile ers’ own testing programmes might be suffi cient future costs.”
WiMAX operator desires. End-to-end interop- to alleviate operators’ concerns.” Th e WiChorus One Open WiMAX pro-
erability, on the other hand, would give opera- gramme includes Aperto, NextWave, Redline,
tors the opportunity to select suppliers who Vendor IOT initiatives Sequans, Telsima, BridgeWater and Aptilo.
they think are best suited to supply different As a relatively new technology, teething prob- “More announcements are in the pipeline,” adds
parts of the network—the so-called ‘best-of- lems on end-to-end mobile WiMAX interoper- Jalil. “We are seeing that in most of the global
breed’ approach. ability are perhaps inevitable but that makes it RFPs, service providers are explicitly asking for
But the pace of mobile WiMAX interoper- no less of an urgent problem to solve. Conscious open interfaces.”
ability progress, for some operators, is moving of this, a number of vendors have initiated their Aptilo has also named a string of ASN gate-
far too slowly. “We are less than satisfied,” own IOT programmes based on the interface way partners as part of its MAIT programme,
says Mike Stacey, CTO of Irish Broadband. specifi cations laid out by the WiMAX Forum’s including WiChorus, Nortel, Starent, Aricent
“We are a relatively small company and don’t NWG (Networking Working Group), which are and Cisco.
have huge resources to devote to trials with based on open standards. But for all the IOT announcements, opera-
multiple vendors. We need the vendors to get Among these are Alvarion’s Open WiMAX tor confidence that different vendors’ kit will
moving on this.” initiative, the One Open WiMAX programme work well together—without a painfully pro-
Irish Broadband, founded over fi ve years from WiChorus, and the WiMAX Multivendor longed period of in-the-field testing—is not
ago and now with 50,000 broadband subscrib- ASN Interoperability Testing (MAIT) scheme universally high. “There is lower confidence
ers, runs multiple wireless access networks from Aptilo. among operators on end-to-end interoperabil-
across Ireland, including fi xed wireless access Each of these vendors, because they focus ity than what we want it to be,” says Torbjorn
in licensed (3.5GHz) and unlicensed frequency on one element of the WiMAX network Ward, Aptilo CEO.
bands (5.4GHz and 5.8GHz). It also has a pre- architecture—base stations (Alvarion), ASN Th e higher confi dence levels among operators
WiMAX nomadic system at 3.5GHz. gateways & home agents (WiChorus) and will only come through successful practical
While Irish Broadband would like to invest in CSN systems (Aptilo)—has a vested interest in demonstrations. “A lot of progress has been
a 802.16 e mobile WiMAX network—running encouraging interoperability. By coming to the made among vendors on interoperability but the
multiple (and legacy) wireless networks is far negotiating table with proven interoperability reason why you haven’t seen so many demon-
from ideal—it has not yet done so, says Stacey, partners, Alvarion, WiChorus and Aptilo can strations out in the fi eld is because there are very
because of a lack of demonstrable vendor each position themselves more as turnkey sup- few 802.16e networks,” says Paolini.
interoperability. “We have been investing in our pliers in front of operators. They can also give
existing technologies but we would have much prospective customers the flexibility to choose Not as easy as A, B, C
rather have been investing in a certifi ed WiMAX their preferred vendors for different parts of The most contentious part of the mobile
platform,” he says. the network. WiMAX network for interoperability is, argu-
A WiMAX Forum certifi cation programme is “Open WiMAX allows you to design your ably, between the BTS and the ASN gateway.
already underway between the CPE and BTS, but network in such a way that right from the While the WiMAX Forum has backed the
a certifi cation programme has yet to be offi cially get go you’re opting for the ‘pick and choose’ so-called profile C (which uses the open
announced by the forum that focuses beyond strategy,” says Asaf Inbar, Alvarion’s corporate R6 interface between the BTS and the ASN
the radio access network. However, the WiMAX marketing director. “You are saying that it is gateway) it also supports profile B (which
Forum board of directors have authorised work- inconceivable that one vendor does everything does not use R6 and so allows the possibility
ing groups to explore a network infrastructure best or does everything right.” of a proprietary connection between the BTS
interoperability certifi cation programme. Th e Alvarion counts Digicel, Kenya Data Net- and the ASN gateway). The WiMAX Forum’s
programme will be further developed through works and Monaco Telecom among its Open position is that it will let the market decide
a fi rst ever WiMAX Forum NWIOT (network WiMAX customers for 802.16e deployment. between the two profiles. In fact, according
interoperability testing) plugfest, targeted for the “When eff ectively leveraged by operators, an to the WiMAX Forum, it is quite likely that
second half of 2008. independent ASN gateway is the ‘best-of-breed networks will be deployed using both profile B
Th e absence of an offi cial WiMAX Forum cer- enabler’,” adds Rehan Jalil, WiChorus CEO. and profile C. (There was also a profile A but
tifi cation programme (outside the RAN) in the “Sitting between the base stations and the CSN, that was eliminated to make R6 interoperabil-
near term shouldn’t be an investment showstop- an open standards-based ASN gateway guar- ity simpler and, according to WiChorus’ Jalil,
per for operators, according to Monica Paolini, antees a service provider will be able to build “to make delineation between BTS and ASN
founder and president of Senza Fili Consulting. a WiMAX network without vendor lock-ins. It gateway crisper”.)
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