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On the road to 4G

In announcing that they had decided to deploy a WiMAX network using their 2.5GHz spectrum, Sprint proclaimed that their decision marked their commitment to building a 4G wireless broadband network. Several commentators, including Network Computing's own, Peter Rysavy, were quick to point out that WiMAX did not mark the development of a 4G network if only because there was no 4G standards effort at the time.

Well, that's about to change. Today, China Mobile, KPN, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Vodafone announced the formation of the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) initiative. The goal? Basically, to provide a roadmap to 4G or, as the NGMN puts it, "guide mobile networks beyond current HSDPA & EVDO technologies". What's interesting is the carriers represent a mix of both CDMA and GSM networks. One has to wonder how all of this will fit into the existing evolutionary paths set out by Qualcomm and the 3GPP respectively.

The NGMN has set a few principles to their roadmap which include:

- High levels of data throughput alongside low levels of latency - Low operation and maintenance costs - Compatibility with legacy networks - Support of high levels of authentication and security, and differentiated quality of service - Improved terminal certification schemes

Most notable of their goals is to achieve "a high level of interoperability." Given the alphabet soup that us in the wireless industry have had to work with thus far, interoperability is certainly a wortwhile goal.