Fixed WiMAX products are closer to market but it was the prospects for the mobile version that created the real buzz at the WiMAX Forum in Spain last week. The potentially powerful standard - 802.16e - has been generating much hype and equal amounts of uncertainty about what WiMAX really means. A commitment was made to ratify the mobile standard by the second half of this year so a firm timeline for product introduction could be set. Provisional dates for testing products next year and launching commercial products a year later were outlined. The announcement that the South Korean Wibro community had joined the WiMAX Forum was seen as a shot in the arm for efforts to take the standard mobile. Not only had equipment manufacturer Samsung joined the forum's board of directors, but LG Electronics and Korea's entire operator community joined the group. Korea's version of wireless broadband is now expected to be WiMAX Forum-certified. Forum president Ron Resnick said: 'Korean operators' studies found there was a demand for personal broadband despite the market already having extremely high broadband concentration.' The addition of United States carrier Sprint to the WiMAX board and the decision of Disney to join the forum were also seen as further grounds for optimism. Defining what the next generation mobile WiMAX would be was a sensitive topic of debate, with members wary of the telecoms' industry's recent history of overstating expectations as was the case with Bluetooth and 3G. 'Personal broadband' was the label that emerged to describe mobile WiMAX with the potency of the broadband connection rather than a suite of services or emphasis on one killer application. Mr Resnick addressed the issue of the competitive threat WiMAX posed. 'We are not building a cellular voice model.' He expected WiMAX to be complementary to mobile services. Still, opinion at the forum was divided. An analyst from Ovum said 3G would not stand still and upgraded versions such as HSPDA and EV-DO Revision were potentially a threat to mobile WiMAX. The forum estimated the real take-off of mobile WiMAX would be restricted until cost-effective PC cards could be integrated into laptops in 2008 or 2009. Much depends on Intel delivering next generation chips at the right price and resolving power consumption issues. Mr Resnick said it could take two years for Intel to develop a new chip and two further generations might be needed. The forum - with 291 members including 107 operators and 67 equipment vendors - can gain confidence from the large show of industry support. But amid the enthusiasm there was a more sobering acknowledgement that WiMAX first needed to prove it could walk before it could run to gain credibility in the marketplace. 'We need to see the fixed standard succeed for mobile to have a chance,' Mr Resnick said.