WiMax far ahead of LTE at Japan's NEC

NEC's WiMax equipment will be running in up to three networks and 20 trials by the end of this year, while its LTE equipment will be in just two.

The future of broadband networking at Japan's NEC is clear. The company's WiMax operations far outpace its work in the telecommunications industry's mobile broadband standard, LTE (long term evolution).

WiMax is the wireless broadband successor to Wi-Fi and is being promoted mainly by the computer industry, which also championed Wi-Fi.

NEC is providing equipment for as many as three WiMax networks that will be up and running by the end of this year, said Toshiyuki Kambe, manager of mobile network solutions division at NEC.

The company's equipment is already in testing at 20 additional test sites, including projects in Thailand and Taiwan, he said.

NEC was selected by Thailand's Crown Prince Hospital Foundation to provide WiMax equipment to medical facilities in the country's northern Chiang Khong region. The foundation operates more than 20 hospitals throughout Thailand.

The foundation's decision to try out WiMax gear for medical services is partly due to the success of similar trials running in the city of Hualien, Taiwan, NEC said.

NEC started working with Taiwanese WiMax license winner Tatung Infocomm using NEC equipment in its Remote Care medical project last year.

In a demonstration of the system at Taiwan's WiMax Forum, the companies showed how an ambulance could use WiMax to send information ahead to a hospital in an emergency situation, so the hospital could prepare for the arrival of the patient. The hospital was also able to send a patient's past medical records to the ambulance.

The companies said audio and video data could be passed across the WiMax network easily in the tests, but not larger data such as X-rays.

Taiwan and Thailand are ahead of many countries in Asia in WiMax development, having already issued licenses to operators.

Taiwanese authorities auctioned off six licenses last year, while the Thai government issued 12 WiMax licenses in January of this year.

NEC faces the toughest competition for WiMax equipment contracts from Motorola of the U.S., Kambe said.

The LTE business is far different for NEC.

By the end of this year, NEC will only have a few projects on the go, including one with NTT DoCoMo in Japan and another with Verizon Wireless in the U.S., an NEC representative said.

Commercial trials in both projects will start around the end of next year or later depending on the operator, he said.

He said NEC hopes to finalize talks for a few more deals to provide LTE equipment by the end of this year.

NEC faces far more competition in LTE than in WiMax. The company competes against several companies to provide LTE equipment, including Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks and Huawei Technologies.

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