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Leading Industry Alliances Speak Out

Mon, 01/05/2009 - 5:09am


In this section, representatives from four of the top industry alliance groups summarize their respective accomplishments in 2008 and provide a glimpse of what they are working on for 2009. The decisions made by the Wi-Fi, WiMAX, ZigBee and Bluetooth Alliances have a significant impact on both OEMs and design engineers alike. Catch up on all the ammendments, ratifications and certifications that were announced in 2008.

2008 Wi-Fi Update



What was the big news for Wi-Fi in 2008?

Greg Ennis, Technical Director, Wi-Fi Alliance
The big news for Wi-Fi in 2008 has been the maturing of converged handsets - both the number of devices available and the quality of the user experience. ABI Research estimates that shipments of Wi-Fi/cellular converged handsets will approach 35 million this year and 300 million by 2011, and we've certified almost 250 handsets now. It's an important category for our industry.


Industry efforts from the last couple of years are visible today. First, the Wi-Fi Alliance launched the Voice-Personal certification program this year - the first certification focused on measuring the device performance.

Another important factor contributing to the maturing of converged devices is the performance information provided by our Converged Wireless Group RF Profile Test. It has given mobile operators uniform, real-world information about handset performance where the Wi-Fi and cellular radios operate together - and allows them to optimize equipment choices and network settings to improve user experience.

What about Wi-Fi standards?

This year, the IEEE has ratified three new amendments: 802.11k, 802.11r and 802.11y.

802.11k introduces a capability called Radio Resource Measurement - it will deliver improved management tools for large Wi-Fi networks. 802.11k allows devices to exchange MAC-level messages relating to measured radio signal levels, and then optimize network effectiveness by choosing channels with minimal interference. 802.11r refines transition of a mobile client as it moves between access points. By allowing a client to establish security before moving between access points, 802.11r minimizes disruption and loss of connectivity. For the end user on a voice call, it means faster, smoother transitions between access points. Elements of both 802.11k and 802.11r are expected to be incorporated into the Voice-Enterprise Certification Program expected in late 2009 or early 2010. We'll preview test implementations at a plug fest planned for January 2009.

The 802.11y amendment introduces some mechanisms for cooperative use and coincides with an FCC decision to open a small slice of new spectrum (3,650 to 3,700 MHz) and pilot a new "light licensing" management approach. Equipment manufacturers may implement the new mechanisms in the near term, but the big news is the opportunity it presents for the opening of additional spectrum to Wi-Fi in the U.S. and across the world. For example, in November, the FCC opened unused television spectrum (commonly referred to as "white spaces") to be used by unlicensed broadband devices.

What should we look for in 2009?

Ratification of the 802.11n, 802.11w and 802.11z amendments is expected in late 2009.

In the case of 802.11n, the new standard will incorporate some updates and new features that are important to specific applications, but, by and large, the changes will be incremental. Our 802.11n draft 2.0 certification program was prescient – it incorporated the parts of the draft amendment that were suited for immediate implementation and continues to meet the needs of the market. When the standard is finalized, we will release a certification program that aligns with it and continues to meet those needs.

We're also expecting to release updates to some of our other certification programs:
  • Our Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) program will add support for Admission Control – a new feature that will manage the admission of additional network sessions to preserve the quality of existing voice sessions. Also, elements of the peer-to-peer (direct-link) functionality in 802.11z amendment may find their way into existing or planned programs.
  • On the enterprise side, our WPA2-Enterprise certification will incorporate updates from the 802.11w standard and extend its security capabilities to include the sensitive network data flowing through management frames. By adding support for additional EAP types, the updated program will help to ensure continuing interoperability for a wide range of enterprise equipment.
  • Bluetooth SIG Perspective – 2008 and 2009


    Mike Foley, Executive Director, Bluetooth Special Interest Group
    In the 10 years since engineers from a handful of companies came together to create the first Bluetooth specification, Bluetooth technology has become a household term, the globally recognized standard for connecting portable devices. The Bluetooth brand ranks among the top technology brands worldwide, recognized by a majority of consumers around the world. A thriving global industry of more than 11,000 member companies now designs Bluetooth products and works together to develop future generations of the technology, found in over 60 percent of mobile phones worldwide and with more than two billion devices shipped to date.


    Constant refinement and innovation in profiles have allowed Bluetooth technology to support a breadth of user experiences well beyond what the first Bluetooth engineers envisioned 10 years ago, from streaming stereo audio to sharing photos and video. Amazingly, Bluetooth technology now even helps patients gain freedom through medical devices, such as hearing aids and prosthetic limbs. And, behind the scenes, Bluetooth SIG tools and programs, such as the Profile Tuning Suite, Qualification Enforcement Program and a streamlined product listing process, have let consumers enjoy a discernible improvement in interoperability among Bluetooth products.

    In 2008, the Bluetooth SIG introduced Bluetooth Core Specification v2.1 + EDR. The hallmark feature of this specification introduced Simple Pairing to dramatically streamline device setup and power-saving features to extend battery life, along with numerous other refinements, including enhanced security and a way to pair using Near-Field Communication (NFC). This specification is making its way into products now, with a handful already on the market. The SIG refers to this version of the specification as "classic Bluetooth" technology - what comes next is quite an evolution.

    Bluetooth Future and Roadmap

    Understanding that no single physical radio design can offer every possible benefit to consumers, the Bluetooth SIG has established a technology roadmap that incorporates multiple new radio technologies under the Bluetooth umbrella. The incorporation of NFC in some Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR devices for one-touch pairing has already proven the benefit of bringing complementary wireless technologies under the Bluetooth umbrella. Further advancements, including the Generic Alternate MAC/PHY, Bluetooth low-energy technology and Bluetooth high-speed solutions using the 802.11 and UWB radio platforms, promise to extend Bluetooth functionality and ease-of-use across an even broader spectrum of devices and applications. These versions of the specification are expected to be finalized in 2009.

    Bluetooth low-energy technology emerged in June 2007 when the Bluetooth SIG brought Nokia's Wibree under the Bluetooth umbrella. Bluetooth low-energy technology combines extreme power efficiency - battery life measured in months and years - with the market support needed to become the first commercially viable low-power technology for consumer applications. A new world of possibilities has opened for makers of sensors, watches and health and fitness monitors. All of these new devices will be able to connect to millions of Bluetooth enabled mobile phones, and manufacturers and service providers alike can take advantage of the explosive growth forecast in these applications in the coming years.

    Bluetooth high-speed technology will improve the user experience for many use cases, such as synchronizing, bulk data transfer and video streaming. The Generic Alternate MAC/PHY (Generic AMP) is the key innovation that has opened the door to Bluetooth high-speed technology. The Generic AMP allows the Bluetooth stack to dynamically and seamlessly select the best radio for the task at hand. Under the Generic AMP, Bluetooth profiles and protocols have access to higher data rates with one or more high-speed radio technologies, while the standard Bluetooth radio handles routine association and link maintenance tasks and provides backward compatibility with the two billion Bluetooth devices already on the market.

    The Generic AMP gives Bluetooth manufacturers the flexibility to select the right high-speed radio for the application and market. For many portable devices, the 802.11 radio currently used for Wireless LAN (WLAN) connectivity provides a ready option for a Bluetooth high speed channel. With 802.11 and Bluetooth radios already coexisting in mobile devices and PCs, Bluetooth high-speed technology over 802.11 is a solution for today's consumer with an established radio technology and a data rate more than adequate for sharing all kinds of entertainment media.

    Alongside the design work on the 802.11 AMP, the Bluetooth SIG is also developing the Ultra Wideband (UWB) AMP. Using the WiMedia UWB radio, the UWB AMP promises the highest speed of any Bluetooth technology, ideal for applications such as streaming high-definition video. With the 802.11 AMP supporting today's high-speed applications with a proven radio technology and the UWB AMP setting the standard for tomorrow's connectivity, the two Bluetooth AMPs give product manufacturers the alternatives needed to answer customers' connectivity demands well into the future.

    Conclusion

    With nearly two billion Bluetooth devices shipped and counting, Bluetooth technology's success in such diverse applications as phones, game consoles and medical devices would surely have astonished the technology's founders had they seen what their efforts would achieve in ten short years. The rapid evolution of technology and consumer expectations means we will always be working to push the technology forward, but in seeing the commitment to excellence exhibited by our member companies on a daily basis, I have no doubts that a strong future for Bluetooth technology lies ahead.
    WiMAX: Delivering on 2008 Promises - Extending Success in 2009


    Ron Resnick, president of the WiMAX Forum WiMax Today
    In January 2008, the telecommunications industry proclaimed 2008 to be the year of WiMAX. As the first 4G technology to hit the market, WiMAX provides a clear advantage for operators who have been quick to adopt and deploy the technology. These mobile broadband networks are commercially operating today, providing WiMAX operators and device suppliers the opportunity to reach more than four billion people around the world. The WiMAX ecosystem boasts more than 400 commercial WiMAX network deployments in 133 countries and, yet, the number of WiMAX network deployments are still growing as there are approximately 1,700 spectrum licenses across 140 countries. Currently, more than 480 devices are commercially available or under development by 80 ecosystem vendors. While the embedded WiMAX devices are the fastest growing products, multi-mode mobile devices, such as CDMA/WiMAX and GSM/WiMAX, are already available from device manufactures.


    WiMAX technology supports a broad range of applications and usage models, from connecting remote villages in India to providing cost-effective mobile Internet access in downtown Baltimore, Maryland. According to recent WiMAX Forum market projections, there will be over 133 million WiMAX users by 2012.

    Testing to Ensure Superior Performance

    WiMAX products undergo WiMAX Forum Certification at designated labs around the world to ensure interoperability and conformance to the WiMAX standard. Our objective is to continue to grow our capability to deliver consumer satisfaction and faciliate new service models. Particularly, we view WiMAX Certification as an important ingredient so that consumers can purchase products in retail outlets and then select an operator for the WiMAX service. The retail model is an excellent way to deliver a greater selection of innovative and low cost products into the market. Today, the WiMAX Forum has six certification labs established and up and running in China, Korea, Spain, U.S. and two in Taiwan. The most recent WiMAX Forum Certified mobile devices are being tested in the WiMAX Forum's Designated Certification Labs in Herndon, Virginia, Taipei, Taiwan and Seoul, South Korea. In early 2009, the WiMAX Forum will open two additional labs in India and Japan to handle the anticipated certification demand.

    Mobile WiMAX Roadmap

    In early 2009, we will see Mobile WiMAX expanding to 20 MHz channel bandwidths with peak download rates exceeding 144 Mbps per sector. With support for closed loop (4x2) MIMO, multi-hop relays and femtocells, reduced link-layer latency and higher VoIP capacity, Mobile WiMAX will meet all of the Next Generation Mobile Network Alliance (NGMN) requirements.

    WiMAX Fast Forward

    In 2010, the WiMAX industry is expected to transition to its next release, which is based on IEEE 802.16m, mirroring IMT-Advanced performance goals. Features will include higher channel and VoIP capacity, and higher user data rates with advanced MIMO configurations at the mobile station, including (1x4), (2x2), and (2x4) MIMO. This next release will offer mobility for up to 500 km/hr, improved link budget and cell edge throughput, link layer latency less than 10 ms and hand-off at about 30 ms. There will be a fractional frequency reuse with inter-base station coordination, enhancements to location-based (LBS) and multi-cast broadcast services (MCBCS).

    Meeting Consumer Demand

    As the demand for increasing high-speed Internet access on the go increases among consumers worldwide, WiMAX technology provides a clear solution to meet the mobile broadband needs of consumers everywhere. As more wireless devices test the patience of consumers accustomed to the upload and download speeds experienced at home, they crave access to these speeds wherever they roam. WiMAX is the only 4G wireless technology that can meet those needs today and in the immediate future.

    Backwards Compatible and Satisfy the Demand Today

    Most important, Mobile WiMAX's backwards compatible migration path is in place and will continue to protect operators and consumers as they deploy WiMAX today so that their products will work for many years into the future. Mobile WiMAX offers operators a time-to-market advantage over other similar OFDMA-based technologies, such as LTE, that will arrive years later.


    In 2008, the ZigBee Alliance ratified the ZigBee Smart Energy public application profile, certified more than 20 devices implementing that profile and saw ZigBee Smart Energy adopted by leading utilities in California, Michigan and Texas as part of those utilities' Smart Grid programs. And energy is just one of several areas of focus for the ZigBee Alliance.


    This rapid market adoption puts ZigBee Smart Energy in a key role for how consumers will use and control their energy use in the future. This public application profile is creating new opportunities for engineers to embed "smart energy" intelligence into everyday devices. It also provides them with a standard way to implement this Smart Grid program that is designed to create long-term reliability and revolutionary communication between utilities and their customers. By increasing the efficiency of electrical devices and providing the ability to remotely control them, ZigBee is opening doors for engineering innovation.

    A growing list of major public utilities has specified ZigBee Smart Energy as the required technology needed to implement home-area networks (HAN). In fact, more than 25 million electric meters in North America will offer ZigBee connectivity in the next four years. These smart meters will provide communication between utility meters, thermostats, smart plugs and in-home displays designed to keep customers informed of energy use in real-time. HANs featuring ZigBee Smart Energy will also offer customers new ways to remotely control and monitor devices via the Internet.

    Most people envision the Internet when they think about networks in their home. From its beginnings, ZigBee has been architected as an integral part of the Internet-enabled world with a specific focus on the unique needs of low-power wireless sensor networks. Whether engineers are designing products for ZigBee Home Automation, the forthcoming Commercial Building Automation or telecom public application profiles, ZigBee has become a proven technology offering Internet connectivity. And with that connectivity, ZigBee is giving a voice to the myriad of unconnected devices that touch our lives everyday. Light switches, power plugs, thermostats, pumps and many more of these devices are being connected or controlled with ZigBee, creating the "Internet of Things." Since ZigBee is based on IEEE 802.15.4, it allows engineers to deliver optimum performance at the lowest cost to meet requirements. Rapid adoption by security- and reliability-minded public utilities is tremendous evidence of growing demand for ZigBee's standards-based wireless sensor networks.

    In creating HANs for millions of homes, the Alliance knew one solution might not meet every need. The real-world considerations of network installation and operation create the need for options between wired and wireless networks. Therefore, in 2008, the ZigBee Alliance and the HomePlug Powerline Alliance began collaborating to implement the ZigBee Smart Energy public application profile on HomePlug power line networks. This joint effort will remain a top focus for the ZigBee Alliance through the coming year and will provide greater options for engineers looking for ways to seize the opportunities presented by HANs.

    While smarter energy use will remain a key focus of the Alliance in 2009, there are other efforts underway that create more opportunities for engineers looking for a standard approach to meeting connectivity needs. New public application profile projects related to areas such as healthcare will create opportunities to positively impact the world. The promise of wireless sensor networks is transitioning to reality. Starting today and into 2009, engineers have an opportunity to rethink the status quo and create a new tomorrow that allows customers to reap the benefits offered through the use of connected devices and sensor networks.
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