Maxing Voice with WiMAX

In an effort to accelerate the widespread rollout of the WiMAX 4G network, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Clearwire, Intel, Samsung Electronics, and Sprint announced today the formation of the Open Patent Alliance (OPA). 

WiMAX, an IP-based broadband wireless technology, has been touted as part of the ubiquitous rollout for universal access of extremely high bandwidth Internet. Analysts think of it as next-generational wi-fi as well as a 4G network for voice operators. According to open source analyst and consultant Bill Weinberg, innovations that come from OPA are likely to circle the convergence of voice and data.   

"One of the areas I think is exciting will be for unlicensed mobile access," Weinberg says. "The issue still goes back to use of bandwidth and how the operators and carriers shape the traffic in the license aspect. Built into WiMAX is a commercial transaction model, but at the same time having a ubiquitous licensed WiMAX data access means you could potentially have lots of room for unlicensed mobile voice, and the permutations there will be quite interesting."

Weinberg neglects to speculate what specifically those permutations might entail, noting that enterprises aren’t revealing too much of their plans and are waiting to gauge the success of the rollout. For Weinberg however, "the voice and data convergence between a ubiquitous wi-fi experience and a 4G telephony network is pretty exciting all by itself."

OPA plans to form a WiMAX "patent pool" that will help participating companies gain access to patent license from patent owners. This will facilitate product differentiation and interoperability and establish a competitive royalty structure by charging only for features required to develop WiMAX products, taking into account a variety of royalty licensing solutions such as cross-licensing between individual members in the same pool.

Still, it’s unclear when WiMAX will actually rollout, with many anticipating the public won’t actually be able to access it until 2010. Regional trials in parts of Atlanta and Chicago are used primarily as a data network.

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