WiMAX Forum announces first operator roaming trial

The WiMAX Forum has announced that a roaming trial between Clearwire and Digital Bridge Communications (DBC), two US Mobile WiMAX operators using 2.5GHz spectrum, will start at the end of this month.

Ken Wieland, Contributing Editor

June 4, 2009

3 Min Read
WiMAX Forum announces first operator roaming trial
LTE roaming is high on the agenda

The WiMAX Forum has announced that a roaming trial between Clearwire and Digital Bridge Communications (DBC), two US Mobile WiMAX operators using 2.5GHz spectrum, will start at the end of this month. “It is the next generation of the WiMAX Forum global roaming programmes,” says Ron Resnick, president of the WiMAX Forum. “This will pave the way for commercial WiMAX-to-WiMAX roaming.”

A total of 14 participants are involved in the trial, including clearing houses. John Dubois, global roaming director at the WiMAX Forum, expects the trial-which is testing the access of DBC services by Clearwire customers-will last between 6-8 weeks. The test has no commercial component, but as the trial is taking place over both the operators’ current equipment, the WiMAX Forum says it will be straightforward to turn it into a commercial service once the trial is complete. “We are making sure that communication between the operators’ AAA servers complies with WiMAX Forum specifications, as well as between the proxy AAA servers used by the clearing houses,” says Dubois. “We are also putting in place the procedure for financial settlement between operators.”

Alvarion and Cisco are participating in the roaming trial by virtue of supplying DBC’s BTS and ASN gateway respectively; Cisco also supplies DBC’s AAA server. On the Clearwire side, Motorola’s BTS and ASN gateway will be used in the trial, while Bridgewater supplies the Clearwire AAA server. The clearing houses involved in the trial are: Aicent, Comfone, Mach, Syniverse and Transaction Network Services (formerly VeriSign).

“The clearing houses are key as they will enable the smaller WIMAX operators, with less resources, to set up roaming,” adds Dubois.

A USB dongle and different models of WiMAX-embedded laptops are to be used in the trial, but the WiMAX Forum is not yet disclosing the names of the device manufacturers. “The next phase of the WiMAX Forum roaming programme is to invite more operators to participate,” says Dubois, although no fixed timeframe has been set for that to happen. Also on the WiMAX Forum roadmap is roaming between WiMAX and wifi, and WIMAX and cellular networks.

“We’re looking to provide a baseline for further roaming agreements and determine the viability of roaming across different spectrum bands and across different wireless technologies,” adds Resnick.

Although the ultimate goal is to facilitate global WIMAX roaming, Dubois says national then regional roaming are the immediate priorities. National roaming is a particularly pressing issue in Taiwan where the three WiMAX licensees in the southern part of the island need to form roaming agreements with the three WiMAX licensees in the northern part if the operators are to achieve their stated aim of nationwide coverage. The WIMAX Forum aims to demonstrate roaming between Taiwanese WiMAX operators in time for the WIMAX Forum members’ meeting in Taipei, October 2009.

The WiMAX forum is also aiming to have certified 2.3GHz Mobile WiMAX products out in the market early next years, on top of the existing certified products at 2.5GHz and 3.5GHz. “That helps us to widen the roaming footprint to include Korea and the operators in Malaysia,” says Resnick. 2.3GHz licence awards are also in the pipeline in Indonesia, India and Russia.

“We are on the timeline we set to ourselves to enable global roaming agreements,” says Resnick. “We want real-life proof cases of roaming so that operators and device manufacturers can take advantage of implementing these services.”

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