Imagine a future mobile experience where parents can stream their kid’s sports event live to grandparents halfway around the world with your handset. Or people can play immersive mobile games like World of Warcraft anywhere, anytime. Or enjoy true mobility for Voice and Video over IP phone calls over popular internet applications like Skype, to open up whole new opportunities for connectedness between family, friends, and colleagues. Social networks will become mobile and context-aware, multi-dimensional, and will utilize live video and highly immersive 3D Graphics, making today’s Facebook and Twitter seem like the command line interfaces of the past. Artists will collaborate real-time worldwide, and explore new frontiers of creativity. We’re taking the Internet mobile and transforming how our planet connects, whether you are a grandparent, gamer, gossip, geek, or guitar-hero!
A key foundation for this vision is reduced cost and increased throughput of cellular systems worldwide. With the advent of IEEE 802.16e WiMAX, the industry is beginning the shift to the most spectrally efficient wireless technology, Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access with Multiple-Input Multiple-Output antenna technology (MIMO-OFDMA), coupled with an all-IP open Internet network architecture. 802.16e is the industry’s first standards-based MIMO-OFDMA mobile broadband network, and it is ramping now worldwide. According to the WiMAX Forum, WiMAX is deployed in over 135 countries with more than 455 networks. I personally use WiMAX today with the CLEAR™ service on my notebook in Portland, Oregon and it works great.
The next generation WiMAX (IEEE 802.16m) standard is also making good progress. For the technically minded, our goal is to double spectral efficiency through innovations like multi-user MIMO using adaptive and differential codebooks, interference mitigation using fractional frequency reuse in downlink and power control in uplink, and MAC improvements such as group scheduling and efficient channel quality feedback. We are also addressing the issue of poor indoor coverage, which is a constant struggle for cellular operators, through low cost femtocell technology. Imagine a small, low cost base station (femtocell) in every home, with the ability to automatically configure and optimize settings. Our research shows that femtocells have the ability to deliver vast gains in capacity, in addition to improving coverage, and hence this is a very active area for research and standardization.
In April, Intel became the first company in the industry to propose an uplink power control algorithm that can meet 802.16m’s stringent cell-edge spectral efficiency requirement of 0.05 bits/sec/Hz (a measure of how efficiently data can be transmitted over limited frequency spectrum). This requirement is far more stringent than IMT-Advanced, and has been very difficult to meet. Our technical proposal provides approximately 2X better performance than other candidate algorithms. At Beijing IDF, we premiered our 802.16m Group Scheduling prototype which to our knowledge is an industry first. Group Scheduling increases Voice over IP capacity for WiMAX networks. We achieved frame overhead reduction of over 20% with 3 VoIP flows. See the April blog for more details
So what’s beyond 802.16m? Can we ever reach peak user throughput of a Gigabit a second? (802.16m is expected to reach 300Mbps using 4×4 MIMO, with 20 MHz channels). More importantly, can we continue to achieve research breakthroughs to significantly increase network capacity? According to Intel and industry researchers, the answer is YES. I believe that mobile broadband innovation is still in its infancy, and we will achieve even more impressive gains in the coming decade. A few of the many examples include: Multi-cell MIMO, Client Cooperation, publicly accessible Femtocells, and advanced interference mitigation technologies. Our network capacity research in WiMAX-3 will focus on: 1) increasing average-user rate to help the “poor and needy” at the cell edge who suffer co-channel interference; 2) significantly increasing the number of users per Hz; and, 3) low-cost network topologies that bring our clients closer to network elements to provide superior wireless link quality. Our mission is to continue advancing the start of the art in affordable, reliable, high-throughput wireless connectivity.
In short, the future is bright for mobile broadband worldwide, and that’s good news for both the industry and the end-users who will benefit from the advances in wireless technology.