U.S. military to spend $3 billion on mobile WiMAX

Published 30 October 2006

The mobile version of WiMAX (802.16e) is of great interest to first responders, law enforcement, and other public safety organizations; the technology has not yet been formally ratified, but in South Korea a local version, called WiBro, is already commercially available, and the U.S. military is about to sign a $3 billion contract to buy it so it could incorporate it in its command and control communication system

WiMAX, the wireless broadband technology, comes in two versions — fixed (designated 802.16d) and mobile (designated 802.16e). If you want to be literal about it, 80-2.16e does not yet formally exist since the task force put together by the IEEE, the governing body in such matters, has not yet ratified the technology’s specifications. Companies already demonstrate various pre-802.16e gear, however. There are still debates about the economics of WiMAX, with some analysts arguing that the fixed version will find it tough to compete with DSL and cable and that as a result it will be largely releagted to a more modest role of offering backhaul services.

There is a much more bullish attitude about the business prospects of Mobile WiMAX — so much so that a commany such as Motorola has decided to skip 802.16d altogether and concentrate its efforts on 802.16e. In South Korea they have gone farther: WiBro, an indigenous veriant on 802.16e, is already commercially available.

Now the Korea Times reports that the U.S. military is interested in Samsung’s WiBro technology, and are negotiating a $3 billion deal with the company. The mobile WiMAX technology is already being implemented by the South Korean military as part of its Ubiquitous Defense project. Samsung did not offer any details, but it is believed that the U.S. military is considering adopting the Korea-led technology for its (the U.S. military’s) next-generation tactical communication tool. “When the deal is signed, personal and military communication equipments of the U.S. military will be fully reorganized to be based on the wireless Internet network,” an unidentified Samsung official was quoted by Hankook economic daily.

The unidentified company official also said that the size of the deal will match Samsung’s $3 billion contract with Sprint Nextel: Sprint Nextel is working with vendors Samsung and Motorola to roll out a nation-wide WiMAX network in the United States.

The U.S. military budget is $441.6 billion this year, larger than the military budgets of the next twenty largest spending nations combined.

-read more in Cho Jin-seo’s Korea Times report

Michael: teh text below should be in a blue box

WiMAX for first responders, law enforcement

WiMAX in both its versions is also of great interest to first responders and law enforcement units, and several companies, among them Alvarion and IBM, have been working together to offer communities WiMAX for public safety networks. WiMAX may be used to provide:

* Nomadic vehicular access: Subscriber terminals (PCs and PDAs) with vehicle roof-mounted antennas allow stationery vehicles wireless user access bandwidth speeds up to 20 Mbps

* Backhaul for smart mesh wireless networks: WiMAX provides dynamic backhaul for the wireline (cabled) AP (transmitter/receiver) automatically to create low-cost WiFi hot spots/zones for public access

* Video surveillance: Either WiFi or WiMAX wireless IP camera or other alarm/device connections

* Fixed location connectivity: Smart networks dynamically and automatically adjust to changing bandwidth needs such as emergency command and control centers

-read more in this Alvarion news release; see this Unstrung report; and see this Wireless Commmunication Association International’s report