Another broadband challenge: QoS

Last time, we discussed the nascent state of fixed broadband wireless standards. Once basic standards for signaling and media access control are in place to allow interoperability among different vendors’ equipment, what wireless quality-of-service mechanisms will be available to support finicky IP traffic such as streaming video and audio?

Currently, there is no standards-based QoS approach to fixed broadband wireless networking. Some vendors have been taking on the challenge in their own R&D labs, however. Often, if the result is "productized," such vendors will submit their technology to a standards group.

One vendor you may have read about that is pursuing broadband wireless QoS with a vengeance is Malibu Networks. According to Douglas Hill, Malibu’s vice president of marketing, the company’s broadband wireless base station, now in internal testing, contains several QoS mechanisms that should result in wireless network operators being able to deliver service-level agreements for differentiated classes of wireless network service.

For example, Hill says, the system functions as a wireless Layer 7 switch, with the ability to examine every packet flow in real time and classify it for appropriate prioritization based on upper-layer protocol. Hill adds that the system, slated for carrier trials in April and commercial availability in the summer, also deals with QoS aggressively in other ways. For example, dynamic forward error correction is said to automatically compensate for interference with the minimum necessary overhead. The base station also chops all packets into smaller sizes so that latency-sensitive voice and video do not run into problematic delays by getting stuck behind particularly large frames.

Let’s see . . . if the system is available to carriers in the summer, when do you suppose we might see QoS-enabled broadband wireless services based on this patent-pending technology? I’d guess around the time the Layer 1 OFDM standards are in place (as discussed last time) -- about a year from now.

This story, "Another broadband challenge: QoS " was originally published by Network World.

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