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700MHz WiMAX rumours return

US communications regulator the FCC is considering contracting for a national broadband mobile IP network for the use of the emergency services. It has proposed that this system be rolled out in the 700MHz ex-analogue TV band and operated by private interests as contractors to the Commission.

Last year, there was some buzz around the idea of using the 700MHz frequencies for WiMAX, but it came to nothing. Commissioner Robert McDowell’s suggestion now makes that speculation highly prescient. McDowell stated that such a network would have to be based on TCP/IP transport and would be operated by private companies on a local basis.

Interestingly, his praise for “fantastic entrepreneurs” gave some reason to believe that it might not only be the emergency services that get to use the system, if and when it is built. Depending on how much capacity is available, it would be technically feasible to operate multiple virtual networks over it, raising the possibility of commercial applications. Fixed/nomadic WiMAX (802.16d) operates as Layer 2 Ethernet, which supports multiple VLANs. Mobile WiMAX (802.16e) is all-IP, but a similar effect could be achieved in software, perhaps through the use of VPNs.

However, telecoms.com notes that it is a pity that New York City has already decided to build a UMTS-TDD mobile IP network to unite its emergency communications systems.


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