AT&T Tests WiMax Gear

Airspan and Motorola are among the vendors being put through their paces in the carrier's labs.

By Colin C. Haley | Posted Mar 22, 2005
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AT&T has been lab-testing WiMax equipment from Airspan Networks and Motorola among others, internetnews.com has learned.

The long-distance carrier and network services provider recently announced two sets of commercial WiMax trials for later this year.

An AT&T official confirmed that the vendors' products are being reviewed in its labs (as are those of other equipment makers), but said that doesn't necessarily mean that they will be part of the trials.

An Airspan representative also confirmed the lab tests. A Motorola spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

AT&T has worked with both companies recently. Their products powered AT&T's wireless broadband demonstration at the Voice Over Net (VON) trade show in San Jose earlier this month.

Airspan makes base stations, backhaul technology and customer premises equipment. The 13-year-old company's broadband wireless products have been deployed by more than 300 customers in more than 95 countries.

The Boca Raton, Fla., company also recently expanded its support for VoIP, buying Israeli equipment maker AreINet for $8.7 million in December. AreINet specialized in VoIP equipment, such as gateways and soft switches for all major VoIP standards.

Motorola has been anticipating WiMax since the late 1990s. Its access points are designed to handle WiMax traffic while mitigating interference.

WiMax is a developing technology that supports very high bit rates in uploading and downloading from a base station up to a distance of 30 miles.

In addition to bringing services such as high-speed Internet access and VoIP to rural areas, office parks and educational campuses, there are other early-adopter opportunities, experts say.

For example, WiMax systems stationed around shipping and trucking hubs and tied into RFID and video surveillance could help eliminate "shrinkage," the industry's term for goods and services that are lost or stolen in transit.

In a more generic sense, vendors could sell against incumbent telecom carriers on cost, comparing their services with T-1 and other traditional business services.

AT&T's first commercial test will take place in May in Middletown, N.J., about an hour from New York, and will involve data transfer services for a retail customer.

The second trial will take place later this year in a major market and will likely include VoIP. The company has not decided upon the city yet, AT&T said.

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