Fixed broadband wireless is in the spotlight, now that 802.16 and WiMax are being written about in the mainstream press: But that attention seems to be adding a lot of confusion to the market, particularly about the difference between different technologies. The Financial Times ran a story about PCCW's launch of broadband wireless in the U.K. but said that the network would use WiMax gear. In addition to the fact that there is no WiMax gear yet, the network will be built with equipment from IPWireless, which doesn't aspire to be WiMax. Strangely, PCCW doesn't even mention IPWireless or the type of technology used in its press release about the launch, which came out yesterday. IPWireless followed up today with an announcement of its own that adds a bit more information.
There seems to be a lot of confusion especially around the 802.16 and 802.20 camps and some of it may be caused by some of the companies involved. For example, I was once told by an 802.20 member that IPWireless was active in the development of that standard. I talked with an IPWireless spokesperson at the time who I understood to say that IPWireless had moved to the 802.16 camp. However, she recently contacted me to say that IPWireless has never been part of the 802.20 effort and while the company has an engineer who attends the 802.16 meetings, the company is not active in the 802.16 development effort and does not at this time have plans to build to the 802.16 standard.
At the same time that the 802.16 and 802.20 efforts work on developing their standards, some of the member companies are also developing and selling their own systems, which sometimes adds to the confusion. Flarion, for example, is one of the founders of 802.20 and is conducting trials for Nextel and Vodafone. But the 802.20 standard is far enough away from being complete that Flarion can hardly call its current equipment 802.20-based. So Flarion and companies like IPWireless are each in their own category.
Generally, it's great that the fixed broadband world is getting a lot of attention but companies and journalists have to be more careful about the facts. The space is confusing enough for folks who are just being introduced to it.