Navini's Big Week

Carl Weinschenk

It certainly was a big week for Navini Networks and, by extension, mobile WiMax. On Thursday, the WiMax antenna specialists -- along with Beceem, Fujitsu and Runcom -- launched the Smart Antenna RF Test Alliance (SMART). The announcement came a couple of days after the news that the vendor is being acquired by Cisco.


The shared goal of SMART and Navini, which holds 13 patents and has 14 more pending, is to harness beamforming and multiple in multiple out (MIMO) approaches to drastically increase the range and power of WiMax. Beamforming concentrates the strength of the antenna's signal in a desired direction instead of wasting a large portion of it via a 360 degree dispersion pattern. MIMO is the use of multiple antennas and sophisticated algorithms to improve signals that are received. positions the $330 million transaction as part of a reversal by Cisco on WiMax. In a 2004 position paper, the company said it would eschew WiMax in favor of the radio access network (RAN) approach. A Current Analysis analyst quoted in the story says Cisco has changed its view as the platform has evolved and wants to jump in while the sector is still young and not dominated by one or very few vendors.


This long post at Port 70 is aimed at engineers, but is understandable to lay people willing to put in the time to study it. It begins by extolling the virtues of mobile WiMax. The next section discusses the big challenge of multipath. This occurs when a transmitted signal bounces off a variety of obstacles, which causes different versions of the same data to reach the receiving antenna at slightly different times. The writer provides a tutorial on MIMO and beamforming approaches that can alleviate the problem. The conclusion suggests that the variety of MIMO and beamforming variants may mean network providers can an option that fits their needs.


People are listening to the experts. This press release hypes a report from WTRS on smart and adaptive antenna technology. The release says the technology is "entering a stage of full market acceptance." There is no mystery on why: The technology, the release says, allows more efficient use of channel and bandwidth capacity and will be a key to software-defined radio deployments. In the Wi-Fi sector, MIMO will reduce complexity, which is synonymous with lowering costs, and loosen restrictions on bandwidth.


There was news this week on the actual rollout front as well, though not in the United States. OneMax, a service provider in the Dominican Republic, launched what it claims is the first mobile WiMax network in the 3.5 GHz spectrum. Mexican telecommunications provider Telmex launched mobile WiMax in Chile. The deployment will complement a fixed WiMax network that will also achieve 98 percent coverage and is expected to be completed within the next few weeks. Alcatel-Lucent is a main vendor to both the Chilean and Dominican rollouts.

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