Mobile WiMAX: A Broadband Wireless Access Technology


Delivering Wireless Broadband Services to the Masses

The "Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access" standard (IEEE 802.16e), or “WiMAX,” is a wireless technology that provides high-throughput broadband connections over long distances. According to Intel, “WiMAX is a fast-emerging wide-area wireless broadband technology that shows great promise as the ‘last mile’ solution for bringing high-speed Internet access into homes and businesses…. What makes WiMAX so attractive is its potential to provide wireless broadband access to entire sections of metropolitan areas, as well as unserved and underserved throughout the world. People, who could not afford broadband, will now be able to get it - and in places not previously available. WIMAX enables coverage of a large geography very quickly… delivering wireless broadband access to the masses.”

IEEE 802.11, also known as Wi-Fi, refers to a family of specifications used in wireless Local Area Network (LAN) technology developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). This standard was first proposed in 1997, and it initially specified a 2.4 GHz operating frequency (unlicensed spectrum) with data rates of 1 and 2 Mbps. Higher data rates are under development.

Several years after the emergence of the 802.11WiFi family of wireless LAN standards, the need to develop a means for longer-range "metropolitan" wireless access led to the creation of a new standard, IEEE 802.16 in 2001. As it was envisioned, IEEE 802.16 would cover point-to-point and point-to-multipoint links in a wireless Metropolitan Area Network (MAN). In contrast, the mobile WiMAX broadband access networks deployed by Clearwire and some other operators are pre-configured to operate as a “MAN.”

WiMAX is a standards-based, wireless broadband access technology that provides point-to-multipoint wireless access to the Internet and other networks at high data rates over medium distances of up to 30 kilometers (typically 2 - 25 miles). WiMAX provides for non-Line-of-Sight (NLOS) transmission in the 2.5GHz licensed frequency band, and supports the Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing, a spread-spectrum modulation protocol used in WiMAX networks.

WiMAX promises to provide connections to the high-speed Internet backbone at distances and quality levels impossible with ordinary unlicensedWi-Fi technology. By utilizing licensed spectrum, WiMAX solves the problem of uncontrolled interference due to band crowding and over utilization. It also provides a solid economic model for wireless operators and assures that subscribers to a WiMAX service will be able to achieve the reliability and throughput they expect.


Developing an Industry Standard for Wireless Broadband

WiMAX technology is a developing set of standards for wireless broadband networks (IEEE 802.16e). WiMAX promises to provide high-speed connectivity in fixed, portable, and mobile wireless networks.

wimax-forumThe WiMAX Forum, an industry consortium, was formed to further the development and ratification of the 802.16 standard, to promote its worldwide implementation and to certify individual wireless components for WiMAXstandards compliance and interoperability. Now, with over 250 members, a significant number of which are wireless carriers, the WiMAX Forum is an important force in moving the technology forward.Certified interoperability and the establishment of a standard are significant to the wireless-networking industry, because they ensure that consumers are likely to get a similar experience whenever they use an approved wireless-networking product. Standards and interoperability testing have been credited as major factors in the success of the wireless-networking market. Standards encourage mass production of devices and chips, resulting in economies of scale that tend to reduce costs.The WiMAX Forum is coordinating the development and deployment of new products found in both infrastructure equipment and personal computers that will support the IEEE 802.16e standard for WiMAX networks. WIMAX chips are now embedded in a wide variety of laptop computers, Personal Digital Assistants, and a multitude of other wireless consumer devices that will automatically log onto a mobile WiMAX network.

Leading PC manufacturers, including Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, Lenovo, Panasonic, Samsung, and Toshiba, have announced plans to deliver Intel Centrino 2® processor technology-powered notebook computers with embedded WiMAX technology. Several manufacturers also plan to offer Intel Atom-based netbook models with WiMAX chips.

In February 2009, key suppliers, including Intel, Cisco, Alvarion, Nokia Siemens, Alcatel Lucent, Motorola, ZTE and Huawei met to pledge their continued investment in and support for WiMAX. The WiMAX Forum announced that WiMAX service providers now cover — out to 430 million people globally and that the service provider members believe they are on path to double that number of people by the end of 2010, to having 800 million people covered by next generation WiMAX networks.

Over 450 service providers now have active trials and deployments for fixed, portable, and mobile use. In addition, the technology keeps moving ahead: the IEEE is on track to approve 822-16M, the next generation WiMAX technology, which will maintain WiMAX's position as the fastest fourth-generation technology.