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802.20 Standards Work Group Halted at IEEE

Plans to introduce yet another broadband-wireless-technology standard hit a major snag with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers announcing that it temporarily suspended a working group, citing procedural irregularities.

The proposed 802.20 standard is based on a technology owned by Qualcomm. Originally developed by Flarion Technologies -- which Qualcomm acquired -- the Internet-protocol-based mobile-wireless scheme offers high-speed-data connections similar to those of WiMAX.

The decision to suspend the working group until November came after three appeals were filed by technology participants challenging the group’s direction. More important, a preliminary investigation into the group’s operation revealed a “lack of transparency, possible ‘dominance’ and other irregularities in the working group,” according to the IEEE.

ABI Research analyst Philip Solis said the IEEE’s decision is an indication of the political storm now brewing within the 802.20 working group.

Qualcomm has faced accusations that it stacked the working group with members loyal to its cause, and Intel and Motorola members have filed appeals alleging that a number of consultants in the working group have been improperly voting as a block in favor of Qualcomm. In addition, the group’s chairman, Jerry Upton, acknowledged that he is a Qualcomm consultant, Solis noted.

The fate of the standards working group is uncertain. During the temporary suspension period, the IEEE standards board will consider the appeals and seek opinions from participants to clear up the questions. It will then review the results at a September meeting.

While the suspension is a setback for Qualcomm, it is perhaps a plus for developers of the mobile WiMAX technology, including Motorola and Navini Networks.

"This development removes -- at least for the time being -- one potential competitor to mobile WiMAX, whose backers can concentrate more on competing with 3G [third-generation] cellular technologies," Solis said.