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WiMAX - The Next Great Technology E-mail
Written by Marcus Guidry   

Many new technologies are emerging within the next few years, but the coolest new technology of the next 25 years will be WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) technology. WiMAX is an IEEE 802.16 specific connection-oriented technology that is designed to deliver high broadband speeds over wireless at lower costs, making it very marketable and adoptive in the IT world. The Intel Corporation describes WiMAX as being “the most important thing since the internet itself”.

Since the WiMAX forum started in June 2001, more than 200 companies and vendors, ranging from silicon vendors to equipment manufacturers to wireless carriers, have joined to support the 802.16-based technology. Some notable standards that were created by this forum includes the 802.16-2004 standard (for fixed and nomadic wireless locations), 802.16e (for mobile wireless), the HiperMAN (developed for European standards), and Wi-Bro (a wireless broadband standard based on 802.16e which is heavily supported in South Korea and other Asian nations).

The idea behind WiMAX is to compliment Wi-Fi by extending traditional wireless access points into areas that are normally considered out of range, such as in rural communities. So far, this exciting new technology is being praised for its affordable cost and its ability to allow remote users to travel longer distances (about 30 miles/50 kilometers) without losing its connection. The release of WiMAX will be very similar to the way that Wi-Fi was introduced to the public. Intel, a major promoter of WiMAX, is in the process of producing chips that will be embedded with this new technology. Intel plans to have laptops WiMAX-ready by the end of 2008. Intel has already released its first WiMAX products in the global market this year. The Intel WiMAX Connection 2250 utilizes the mobile WiMAX technology while the Intel PRO/Wireless 5116 broadband interface takes advantage of fixed WiMAX technology.

In addition to the long range coverage and lower costs, this new technology has many other benefits. WiMax uses a different frequency called Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) for modulation in its physical layer. OFDM is unique because not only is it scalable for mobile users, it also improves resilience to interference and outdoor environment, and improves the signal to noise ratio at the terminals. WiMAX is able to offer both line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight services due to this scalability. The line-of-site service is able to have antennas reach a frequency as high as 66 GHz due to its greater stability and signal. The non-line-of-site service can work at lower frequencies between 2 GHz and 11 GHz. Generally, trees and buildings in the direct path of an antenna or other wireless equipment will result in the device having a much lower frequency (hence the name non-line-of-site). WiMAX, however, has greater ability to bend around these obstacles more easily. WiMAX is truly flexible in that it uses both fixed and mobile applications to deliver its services.

The future for WiMAX is very bright. Many industry experts are projecting that WiMAX market could easily reach between $3 and $6 billion before 2010. In reality, WiMAX is like a mobile service that would allow users to access the Internet with their laptops or PDAs anywhere in a city or region that has WiMAX available. WiMAX users could access the Internet from their homes or offices as well as from restaurants, malls, golf courses, or parks. Many experts call this concept “the holy grail” for broadband wireless access, combining Wi-Fi speeds and prices with cellular-type coverage. Many international cities and countries are strongly considering using WiMAX to link their wireless networks to local cell phone and internet services. The Chinese government, for example, is working with IEEE to make WiMAX the national standard for fixed broadband wireless access running at the 3.5 GHz frequency. At this point, the largest market for WiMAX technology is in China.

Many companies in the U.S. are also starting to invest in this new technology. Clearwire, a national ISP and broadband company is testing the technology in targeted smaller cities without good wired broadband alternatives, such as Jacksonville, Florida, and Medford, Oregon. Sprint, one of the national mobile phone carriers, is planning to invest as much as $3 billion to construct a nationwide WiMAX network using the 2.5-gigahertz spectrum together with Intel, Motorola and Samsung. Sprint plans to begin trials next year and start the service extensively in 2008. Many European nations are reserving the spectrum of 3.4 to 3.5 gigahertz for WiMAX operators.

WiMAX is truly a technology that allows high broadband wireless to reach into areas that have not been accessible before by current wireless technologies. Whether a user is working on a farm in New Zealand or in a remote area in the middle of Kansas, more people than ever before will be equipped with the technology to tap into the global market. Because of its scalability, more companies and vendors are joining the WiMAX forum to help contribute to this new wireless age. WiMAX will continue to extend the reach of global broadband access and make a significant impact in the wireless industry for years to come.


References:

1) “WiMAX Broadband Wireless Technology Access” Intel Corporation retrieved from 
http://www.intel.com/netcomms/technologies/wimax/  (March 30, 2007)

2) “Benefits of WiMAX” by Justin Burke and Ken Lopez retrieved from
http://nislab.bu.edu/nislab/education/sc441/JustinKen/JustinKen/Networking%20Webpage/index_files/Page477.htm
  (May 1, 2007)

3) “Behold The Wireless Future - WiMAX Is Coming” by Nancy Gohring article from JIWire retrieved from
http://www.jiwire.com/broadband-wireless-future-wimax-future.htm

4) Carpenter, Tom (2006) Wireless# Certification Official Study Guide. New York: McGraw Hill/Osborne

 

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