by Michael Newlands
After a final meeting of ITU working party 8F the decision on admitting WiMAX to the IMT- 2000 family goes to the Radiocommunication Assembly. A positive result seems extremely likely as this only requires a simple majority of member states.
The battle to get WiMAX admitted to the IMT-2000 family before WRC-07 next month is still unresolved, although looking very hopeful for the pro- WiMAX lobby, following a special meeting of ITUR Working Party 8F in Seoul from August 28 to 31.
Following the meeting the ITU responded to questions from PolicyTracker by issuing the following terse statement: "In Seoul last week, a special meeting of Working Party 8F was held with the objective of resolving the remaining difficulties associated with the inclusion of the OFDMA TDD WMAN technology (a specific subset of WiMAX) as a new radio interface for IMT-2000. After an intensive week of discussions, consensus was reached amongst the members present and as a consequence a draft revision to Recommendation ITU-R 1457 (Radio interfaces for IMT-2000) describing the new technology alongside the existing family of IMT-2000 interfaces will be submitted to the Radiocommunication Assembly (RA-07), 15-19 October 2007, for approval by the Member States of the Union."
RA-07 takes place in Geneva on October 15 to 19, directly before WRC- 07. If approval for WiMAX to be admitted to IMT-2000 is given at RA-07 then it will be part of the key discussions for spectrum allocation for the next generation of IMT which are scheduled to take place at WRC-07 which runs from October 22 to November 16.
Although WiMAX networks are being run out in countries around the world while the technical discussions continue, the prize here is having access to the spectrum being allocated for 4G wireless communications. Opposition to WiMAX getting this access has been by administrations from countries where vendors have been working on alternative technologies. This was made clear before and after the Seoul meeting by the Korean government which is strongly supportive of the Mobile WiMAX technology, WiBro, which has been largely developed by Korean vendor Samsung with Korea Telecom running out the world's first commercial network.
Koreans prove persuasive Seoul offered to host the special WP8F meeting, which had to be called after two earlier meetings in Cameroon and Kyoto had failed to reach consensus, to push the case for WiMAX in an environment where WiBro is a successful commercial reality. KT and Samsung ran two WiBro test buses around the city centre while the conference was on so the delegates from 38 ITU member countries could see it in action for themselves.
The WP8F meeting also came directly after a 4G conference and exhibition hosted by Samsung at which WiBro was one of the star turns. Samsung announced at the conference that it will build a WiBro network in New York for US mobile operator Sprint Nextel. Last year Samsung, Sprint Nextel, Motorola and Intel Corp signed a deal to develop and commercialise WiBro in the US and networks are being rolled out in Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston. When the New York network is complete next year, WiBro will be available to 100 million people in the northeastern US. A Samsung statement said trial services will be available late this year and the service will launch in several of the cities next April.
Before the Seoul meeting kicked off Korean officials told local publication the Korean IT Times there was opposition to WiMAX being admitted to IMT- 2000 and all that would flow from that.
Ki-ju Lee, Director of Radio and Broadcasting Planning at the Ministry of Information and Communications, said: "Although there are some opposing voices from China and Europe a majority of countries including the US believe the technology should be added to 3G standards".
He said every effort would be made at the meeting to win over the opposing voices.
When the meeting concluded Lee told the IT Times: "Seeing previously strong opponent countries [like Germany] and companies like Ericsson changing their views on WiBro and being able to answer their questions on technical issues was a great accomplishment for us".
However he said China and some other countries are still against the standardization of WiMAX, but Korea was confident of a positive outcome at the RA-07 meeting. One reason behind his, and the WiMAX lobby's, confidence is that unlike WP8F meetings where decisions are made by achieving consensus, all that is required at RA meetings is a simple majority and they believe an overwhelming majority of administrations will vote in favour as they did at the WP8F meetings.