Even though WiMAX's main backer in the U.S. is already mulling the possibility of adopting LTE technology in the near future, the WiMAX Forum industry group is moving full steam ahead with the next iteration of its 4G standard. According to the forum's marketing director, Declan Byrne, WiMAX 2 is due to be finalized in November, while the timeline for certification and commercial availability of hardware and devices remains in place for 2011 and 2012.
Based on the 802.16m specification, the WiMAX 2 standard is expected to bring theoretical mobile download speeds of up to 100Mbps, providing lower latency than its predecessor. He also noted that 802.16m will be backwards compatible with 802.16e, the current WiMAX implementation used by service providers in the United States. This means carriers will have little trouble supporting the faster speeds, and infrastructure upgrades should come at relatively low costs.
Currently, Clearwire's WiMAX service tops at around 3 to 6Mbps and is available in nearly 50 U.S. markets through dongle modems, mobile hotspots and the Evo 4G handset. Reviews for a second WiMAX capable handset from Sprint, the Samsung Epic 4G, have started to roll in and so far it's looking like a strong contender. Priced at $250 with a two year contract, after a $100 rebate, the device has a 1GHz Cortex A8 Hummingbird processor, 4-inch Super AMOLED screen, slide-out QWERTY keyboard, 5-megapixel camera and a front-facing VGA camera for video conferencing.