An industry consortium has drafted a preliminary list of requirements for a global, IP-based network to support wireless communications.
The work of the Mobile Wireless Internet Forum (MWIF) is intended to speed creation of a uniform net that will be able to bring together different wireless technologies in use today and marry them to an IP backbone.
Over time, as equipment builders and carriers implement the specification, it should become easier to create and deploy new wireless services, and easier for handheld users to access them.
"We want to create a layered architecture that separates [functions such as] transport, switching, services, and so on," says Dean Sirovica, senior director of global technology for Vodafone AirTouch, and chairman of the MWIF.
"Today, for example, a switch from Lucent has all these layers embedded in the switch itself."
By separating these various functions, the global wireless net takes on the characteristics of the Internet today, he contends.
"Then two guys in a garage could come up with some code for a fancy call-forwarding service, get permission from a carrier, and offer the service on the carrier's [wireless] platform," Sirovica says.
The requirement draft, and a second document that outlines a reference implementation of such a net, are being voted on now by the 73 members of the MWIF.
When the voting is completed, and any necessary changes made, the documents will be funnelled into a trio of existing standards groups for review.
The standards groups are the 3G Partnership Project, 3G Partnership Project 2 -- both of which are themselves collaborative efforts focused on standards for so-called 3rd-Generation mobile systems -- and the Internet Engineering Task Force. According to Sirovica, these three groups will hammer out the final, detailed elements of the network standards.
The MWIF enlists members from carriers, service providers and equipment manufacturers. Fifteen of the members are classed as "auditing members," and vendors, even if full members, are prohibited from sitting on the MWIF board of directors.
Members include Vodafone-AirTouch, 3Com, Cisco Systems, Ericsson, IBM, Lucent, Microsoft, Nokia, Orange PCS, UUNET Technologies, and Verizon. Engineers from these companies have been meeting every other month for up to a week at a time, since last December. The MWIF itself was formally launched in February.