In the early days of WiMAX, the technology's backers envisioned it as one that would essentially offer a super Wi-Fi experience, and then eventually replace Wi-Fi in the unlicensed bands. The technology then morphed into an access technology rivaling 3G and 4G, which caused WiMAX advocates to declare that it was a more capable technology for licensed bands.

Now some operators and vendors have come full circle back to an unlicensed-band strategy. That's the direction of WiMAX base-station vendor Purewave, which is targeting vertical industries such as public safety, utilities, municipalities and industrial companies such as oil companies.

While other WiMAX vendors also target these markets, Purewave does so with a plug-and-play product that is based on the WiMAX standard, meaning that the company is aiming to make WiMAX deployments as easy as installing a Wi-Fi hotspot.

"We've developed a solution that we think is scalable because it allows less sophisticated operators to deploy it without the complexity," said Ronen Vengosh, vice president of business development with Purewave. "Rather than customize the product to an industry, we've designed the product around the network concept. So we're going for something very simple, low cost and rugged, and which doesn't require an indoor component, so that you can easily put it on an oil rig or a light pole."

The low cost has to do with the fact that Purewave's WiMAX product can be deployed without an ASN gateway. "Smaller networks don't need that expensive piece along with an IP core," Vengosh said.

But if a customer wants an ASN gateway, or wants to add one at a later date as the network grows, it can deploy one from another vendor and also add customer premise equipment, because Purewave's products are standards-based. "We don't have a full view of what customers want, but we are building something that is as flexible as possible to meet various needs," Vengosh said.

Purewave currently offers WiMAX products for the unlicensed 3.65 GHz band and the semi-licensed 3.65 GHz band, but the company would like to see some standardization around the use of WiMAX in the 4.9 GHz and 5 GHz unlicensed bands from the WiMAX Forum. But at this point, the WiMAX Forum is placing a heavy emphasis on licensed bands.

Nevertheless, "vendors aren't sitting around and waiting to go after these bands. Vendors like ourselves are making these available even without official sanction of the Forum," Vengosh said.

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