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Motorola: WiMax Not Good for Backhaul

Countering conventional wisdom, Motorola WiMax head Thomas Mitoraj said Tuesday that WiMax will not be a suitable technology for backhauling traffic for wireless networks. Speaking at a broadband wireless panel at Interop, Mitoraj said that proprietary technologies -- such as Motorola's Canopy system, which uses point-to-point and point-to-multipoint connections running over the unlicensed U-NII spectrum -- work far better than WiMax for transmitting traffic back to wired nodes.

"We learned a lot about mesh backhaul" in deploying early municipal Wi-Fi networks, said Mitoraj, director of Motorola's WiMax efforts for the Americas, "and what we found is that backhaul is very tough. WiMax is unsuitable as a backhaul solution."

The reason, Mitoraj asserted, is that while WiMax was "built to do everything well," including diverse applications such as voice, video, and data, it is less effective when used for a single high-throughput application such as backhaul.

This is directly contrary to the viewpoint of many companies in the emerging WiMax market, who see the broadband-wireless technology as ideal for both wide-area access networks in rural areas, particularly in the developing world, and for backhaul. Sprint Nextel, for instance, which is building a nationwide WiMax access network, plans to use the system for backhauling traffic from its cellular networks as well.

"Alternative backhaul is important to us," Ali Afrashteh, VP of access technologies for Sprint Nextel, said at a telecommunications conference in New York City last fall. Sprint plans to replace some 10% to 20% of its current backhaul networks, most of which run over T1 lines, with WiMax connections by the end of 2008.

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