The WiMAX Forum made a series of announcements this week aimed at speeding up its timeline for delivering the next-generation of WiMAX, known as 802.16m, as well as for bringing higher data speeds to the current generation of mobile WiMAX.

Accelerating the delivery of higher data speeds for WiMAX is a reaction to heavy data usage among WiMAX subscribers worldwide, said Mo Shakouri, vice president of the WiMAX Forum. WiMAX operators around the world are reporting that data usage is surging, with subscribers using an average of 10 GB per month. Clearwire recently reported that mobile users average more than 7 GB of usage per month. In Russia, mobile WiMAX operator Yota sees more than 1 GB per month of data traffic from subscribers using their WiMAX-enabled smartphone. For laptops, usage rises to 13 GB per month.

The enhancement to the current generation of mobile WiMAX, 802.16e, aims to double peak data rates and boost average cell-edge end-user performance by 50%, with certified products coming to market in late 2010. Shakouri said the enhancement wasn't on the forum's road map, but is now coming at the urging of WiMAX operators, which feel they will face a capacity crunch as they offer subscribers unlimited-usage pricing and transmit data-heavy services such as video.

The changes will be facilitated by MIMO antennas on the base stations (4 transmit antennas instead of 2), higher-order (64 QAM) modulation on the uplink, downlink beamforming, and improved fractional frequency reuse while ensuring multi-vendor interoperability.

At the same time, the forum is bumping up its timeline for the appearance of 802.16m, now known as WiMAX 2, from about 2013 to late 2011 when device certification begins. WiMAX 2 is expected to expand capacity to 300 Mbps peak rates via advances in antennas, channel stacking and frequency-reuse methods.

Shakouri said the standard is 95% done, but a group of vendors aren't waiting for its completion. They have created a new group called the WiMAX 2 Collaboration Initiative, which is made up of vendors Samsung, Alvarion, Motorola, ZTE, Sequans, Beceem, GCT Semiconductor and XRONet. The companies will work in tandem with the WiMAX Forum and WiMAX operators to accelerate the next-generation standard to get it out the door early. The group will handle interoperability testing, performance benchmarking and application development before the WiMAX Forum establishes its certification program, in order to narrow the gap between the finalized standard and commercial rollouts.