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Introduction

This paper provides guidelines for network providers on how best to take advantage of the IEEE 802.16 standard for wireless broadband equipment, which will be certified by the WiMAX Forum, to grow their business while managing risks. We begin by identifying the key challenges currently facing service providers, and providing a brief introduction to WiMAX technology. We go on to describe some of the ways in which WiMAX can help service providers meet those challenges and the main risks involved in making the move to WiMAX. We then provide detailed recommendations on how and when service providers should transition to WiMAX so as to further their business goals while minimizing the risks.

What Network Service Providers Need Most

Network service providers currently face a situation in which revenues from traditional sources are either declining or stagnating. The market for services delivered via wired infrastructure is saturated, and opportunities for growth in that market are extremely limited. By contrast, demand for services beyond the reach of wired infrastructures is potentially huge, but the wireless technology required to support the delivery of broadband to those market sectors has until now been largely proprietary and marked by either poor performance (at the low end) or prohibitive cost (at the high end).

Network service providers need a cost-effective solution that would allow them to satisfy the demand for broadband-based services beyond the reach of wired infrastructures. They need a solution with a rapid ROI and the promise of steadily increasing revenues. They need to move more quickly than their competitors in order to achieve a dominant position in these new markets. In addition, they need to minimize the risks associated with timely deployment of new wireless technologies.

WiMAX Benefits for Service Providers

Enter IEEE 802.16, or “WiMAX”—the emerging wireless standard that promises to substantially reduce the costs required to further expand the reach of broadband delivery systems while delivering performance that exceeds that of most wired technologies. WiMAX technology offers several key benefits to network service providers. It will: 

  • Allow service providers to profitably deliver high-throughput, broadband-based services like VoIP, high-speed Internet access and video to business and residential users who previously could not be economically served 

  • Facilitate equipment compatibility, allowing all of the components of WiMAX-based broadband systems to form a cohesive network, further reducing deployment and maintenance costs 

  • Facilitate equipment interoperability, allowing service providers to avoid having to commit to single vendors, diversifying vendor-dependent deployment risks 

  • Reduce the initial and incremental capital expenditures required for network expansion 

  • Provide vastly improved performance and extended range compared to existing wireless technologies 

  • Overcome many technical limitations of current wireless technology—for example, it will support service to customers that could not be economically served by legacy “line of sight” wireless technologies 

  • Allow service providers to achieve rapid ROI and maximize revenues

The potential for providers to achieve a faster ROI by deploying emerging wireless technologies than they could by deploying wired networks has been widely recognized. For example, a recent Gartner Research study describes the business advantage of emerging wireless succinctly:

“Looking at the basic pricing mode, a leased T1 line can cost $7,200 per year ($600 per month). Basic wireless point-to-point metropolitan-area network equipment ranges from $1,000 to $10,000 per unit (not including towers, additional routers, shelters, cables or installation, which can add less than $5,000 to the project), depending on speed needed. An enterprise can get a return on investment in less than a year on many systems, and in less than 18 months for most systems.“

Source: P. Redman, Research Note, Gartner Research Inc., July 2003

WiMAX Technology

The following section is excerpted from Can WiMAX Address Your Applications?, published by the WiMAX Forum

The WiMAX standard has been developed with many objectives in mind. These are summarized below:

Flexible Architecture: WiMAX supports several system architectures, including Point-to-Point, Point-to-Multipoint, and ubiquitous coverage. The WiMAX MAC (Media Access Control) supports Point-to-Multipoint and ubiquitous service by scheduling a time slot for each Subscriber Station (SS). If there is only one SS in the network, the WiMAX Base Station (BS) will communicate with the SS on a Point-to- Point basis. A BS in a Point-to-Point configuration may use a narrower beam antenna to cover longer distances.

High Security: WiMAX supports AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) and 3DES (Triple DES, where DES is the Data Encryption Standard). By encrypting the links between the BS and the SS, WiMAX provides subscribers with privacy (against eavesdropping) and security across the broadband wireless interface. Security also provides operators with strong protection against theft of service. WiMAX also has built-in VLAN support, which provides protection for data that is being transmitted by different users on the same BS.

WiMAX QoS: WiMAX can be dynamically optimized for the mix of traffic that is being carried. Four types of service are supported:

  • Unsolicited Grant Service (UGS) UGS is designed to support real-time data streams consisting of fixedsize data packets issued at periodic intervals, such as T1/E1 and Voice over IP.

  • Real-Time Polling Service (rtPS) rtPS is designed to support real-time data streams consisting of variable-sized data packets that are issued at periodic intervals, such as MPEG video.

  • Non-Real-Time Polling Service (nrtPS) nrtPS is designed to support delay-tolerant data streams consisting of variable-sized data packets for which a minimum data rate is required, such as FTP.

  • Best Effort (BE) BE service is designed to support data streams for which no minimum service level is required and which can be handled on a spaceavailable basis.

Quick Deployment: Compared with the deployment of wired solutions, WiMAX requires little or no external plant construction. For example, excavation to support the trenching of cables is not required. Operators that have obtained licenses to use one of the licensed bands, or that plan to use one of the unlicensed bands, do not need to submit further applications to the Government. Once the antenna and equipment are installed and powered, WiMAX is ready for service. In most cases, deployment of WiMAX can be completed in a matter of hours, compared with months for other solutions.

Multi-Level Service: The manner in which QoS is delivered is generally based on the Service Level Agreement (SLA) between the service provider and the end-user. Further, one service provider can offer different SLAs to different subscribers, or even to different users on the same SS. Interoperability: WiMAX is based on international, vendorneutral standards, which make it easier for end-users to transport and use their SS at different locations, or with different service providers. Interoperability protects the early investment of an operator since it can select equipment from different equipment vendors, and it will continue to drive the costs of equipment down as a result of mass adoption.

Portability: As with current cellular systems, once the WiMAX SS is powered up, it identifies itself, determines the characteristics of the link with the BS, as long as the SS is registered in the system database, and then negotiates its transmission characteristics accordingly.

Mobility: The IEEE 802.16e amendment has added key features in support of mobility. Improvements have been made to the OFDM and OFDMA physical layers to support devices and services in a mobile environment. These improvements, which include Scaleable OFDMA, MIMO, and support for idle/sleep mode and hand-off, will allow full mobility at speeds up to 160 km/hr. The WiMAX Forumsupported standard has inherited OFDM’s superior NLOS (Non-Line Of Sight) performance and multipath-resistant operation, making it highly suitable for the mobile environment.

Cost-effective: WiMAX is based on an open, international standard. Mass adoption of the standard, and the use of low-cost, mass-produced chipsets, will drive costs down dramatically, and the resultant competitive pricing will provide considerable cost savings for service providers and end-users.

Wider Coverage: WiMAX dynamically supports multiple modulation levels, including BPSK, QPSK, 16-QAM, and 64- QAM. When equipped with a high-power amplifier and operating with a low-level modulation (BPSK or QPSK, for example), WiMAX systems are able to cover a large geographic area when the path between the BS and the SS is unobstructed.

Non-Line-of-Sight Operation: NLOS usually refers to a radio path with its first Fresnel zone completely blocked. WiMAX is based on OFDM technology, which has the inherent capability of handling NLOS environments. This capability helps WiMAX products deliver broad bandwidth in a NLOS environment, which other wireless product cannot do.

High Capacity: Using higher modulation (64-QAM) and channel bandwidth (currently 7 MHz, with planned evolution towards the full bandwidth specified in the associated IEEE and ETSI standards), WiMAX systems can provide significant bandwidth to end-users.

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