Tuesday 21 August 2007

Prepare for WiMAX 2.0

I was completely unaware of IEEE 802.16m which is promising speeds upto 1Gbps. Only when someone asked me what my opinion was on this i did some digging in this.

IEEE 802.16m promises to deliver speeds up to 1Gbps and be backward compatible with 802.16e-2005 (mobile WiMAX) solutions. The 802.16m group should wrap up the technology development phase in 2007. Similar to existing mobile WiMAX, 802.16m will use multiple-input/multiple-output (MIMO) antenna technology. The idea with 802.16m, though, is to increase bandwidth by using larger MIMO antenna arrays.

The 802.1m group is targeting ratification and finalization of the standard by late 2009. So, we’re still a couple of years (or more) from having a gigabit version of WiMAX. As compared to other IEEE 802 standards development, such as 802.11, this is an aggressive schedule. In my opinion, these will be difficult dates to hit, especially with the requirement for being backward compatible with 802.16e-2005.

The advantage of 802.11m to cellular companies is that it could allow the convergence of 3G and 802.16 into a single 4G technology for mobile and fixed applications. This would enable cellular companies to offer service, such as IPTV and VoIP, as effectively over wireless connections as they are today on wired networks. This would lead to competition with existing fixed wireless broadband services currently delivered over cable and telephone lines.

Many vendor sources however, have expressed some skepticism about the speed with the work can be completed (the end of 2009 is being mooted as a baked date) and the chances of maintaining backwards compatibility with mobile 802.16 technology. Some folks worry that carriers have unrealistic expectations on how fast new WiMax profiles and interfaces can be developed. "They just walk in, snap their fingers, and expect it to happen," one industry source told us on the show floor yesterday. After all, it took several years for the IEEE to arrive at a satisfactory fixed broadband wireless specification in the form of 802.16d and even longer for the WiMAX Forum to certify interoperability between products using the technology.

Martin has some interesting analysis on his Mobile technology page:

Between today and WiMAX II, there's systems such as WiMAX and LTE which promise faster data rates than those available today by mainly doing the following:
  • Increase the channel bandwidth: HSDPA uses a 5 MHz channel today. WiMAX and LTE have flexible channel bandwidths from 1.25 to 20 MHz (Note: The fastest WiMAX profile currently only uses a 10 MHz channel today for the simple reason that 20 MHz of spectrum is hard to come by). So by using a channel that is four times as broad as today, data rates can be increased four times.
  • Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO): Here, multiple antennas at both the transmitting and receiving end are used to send independent data streams over each antenna. This is possible as signals bounce of buildings, trees and other obstacles and thus form independent data paths. Both LTE and WiMAX currently foresee 2 transmitting and 2 receiving antennas (2x2 Mimo). In the best case this doubles data rates.
  • Higher Order Modulation: While HSDPA uses 16QAM modulation that packs 4 bits into a single transmission step, WiMAX and LTE will use 64QAM modulation under ideal transmission conditions which packs 6 bits into a single transmission step.
By using the techniques above, LTE and WIMAX will be able to increase today's 2 MBit/s to about 20-25 MBit/s. That's still far away from the envisaged 1.000 GBit/s. To see how to get there let's take a look at what NTT DoCoMo is doing in their research labs, as they have already achieved 5 GBit/s on the air interface and have been a bit more open at what they are doing (see

here and especially here):
  • Again increase of the channel bandwidth: They use a 100 MHz channel for their system. That's 4 times wider than the biggest channel bandwidth foreseen for LTE and 20 times wider than used for today's HSDPA. Note that in practice it might be quite difficult to find such large channels in the already congested radio bands.
  • 12x12 MIMO: Instead of 2 transmit and receive antennas, DoCoMo uses 12 for their experiments. Current designers of mobile devices already have a lot of trouble finding space for 2 antennas so a 12x12 system should be a bit tricky to put into small devices.
  • A new modulation scheme: VSF spread OFDM. This one's a bit mind bogelling using CDMA and OFDM in combination. Wikipedia contains a description of something called VSF-OFCDM which might be a close brother.

More Information available at IEEE 802.16 Task Group m (TGm) page.

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