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WiMAX A Revolutionary Technology

Updated on October 22, 2011

The pace of growth in the field of science can never be over emphasised. Throughout history, man has investigated, discovered and invented things that have had a great impact on the development of culture and civilisation. However, in the last century this rate in growth has been tremendous and enormous growth in communication field has turned this world into a global village.

Beginning with the use of smoke in 150 BC for communication purposes, to the establishment of Radio Communication across English Channel in 1897, man never stopped. Today, we live in a world where communications have evolved into a landscape that a person from 1990 would scarcely recognise. About a decade ago, cell phones were only owned by the wealthy and were large enough to act as an anchor for a small boat. Pagers were what most people used for mobile communications and even they were quite few in number comparatively speaking.

Many people today think it was the improvements in hand phone design that dropped rates and the cost of cellular phones to the point where today even most suburban teenagers carry hand phones when just 10 years ago many middle income adults considered them a luxury. However, it was actually the other way round: It was the wireless infrastructure that drove the market to its current state and not the devices using it. Modern wireless technology is in full swing in many areas of communications like internet, video, voice etc.

To further add to technology, there is WiMAX: a single wireless technology that can make portable internet a reality by enlarging WLAN hotspots to metropolitan area coverage for mobile data-centric service delivery; using the same technology at home and on move, connect missionary and local users in urban and suburban environments where access to copper service is of low grade or not available, using the same service to make voice calls, video conferencing and watch TV.

What Is WiMAX

WiMAX, an acronym for Worldwide Interoperability Microwave Access is broadband wireless access technology, which promises to bring high-speed data to multitudes of people in various geographical locations where wired transmission is too costly, inconvenient, or unavailable. The technology aims to provide broadband wireless access to residential and small business applications, and enable internet access in countries without any existing wired infrastructure in place. WiMAX provides fixed, nomadic, portable and, soon, mobile wireless broadband connectivity without the need for direct line-of-sight with a base station

Just think of WiMAX as a sort of wireless DSL with a 30-mile range. The difference is that DSL connection goes to your house only, whereas devices will be able to access WiMAX networks just like cell phones access cellular networks today. This will mean that a customer can have a high speed data connection anywhere they go (at least in areas that have coverage) to do anything from browse the web to downloading music to making phone calls and hunting the information.

Some of you would probably argue that similar options are available today with existing cell phones. But the issue here is of capacity of the connection and speed. With mobile WiMAX, users are able to download not a video clip but full-length movies and television shows onto a device that will be similar to today's cell phones. And unlike today's phones, these will have devices have hard drive. They link with the future's television sets and become the communications option for the majority of data, voice and video applications. Think of a phone that provides internet access to your laptop, brings movies to your TV and gives you unlimited calling all for about what you pay for cellular service today.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers claim that the standard designated 802.16-2004 (fixed wireless) and 802.16e-2005 (mobile wire-less applications) has been termed as "last mile" wireless solution for broadband access as an alternative to wired broadband like cable and DSL. It has the potential to replace a number of surviving telecommunications infrastructure. In its fixed wireless variant, it can replace the telephone company's copper wire network, the cable TV's coaxial cable infrastructure along with providing internet service provider (ISP) services. In its mobile option, WiMAX has the capability to replace cellular networks.

More Technical Facts

WiMAX incorporates a couple of different frequency ranges. The 802.16a design, which is an extension of IEEE802.16, covers bands in the 2GHz-to-11GHz range. It has a range of up to 30 miles with a typical cell radius of 4-6 miles. Its channel sizes range from 1.5 to 20MHz as well, and provides the flexibility to support a variety of data flow rates such as T1 (1.5Mbps) and higher data flow rates of up to 70Mbps on a single channel that can support thousands of users. This flexibility gives WiMAX an edge to adapt to the available spectrum and channel widths in different countries or licensed to different service providers.

WiMAX supports IPv4, IPv6, ATM, Ethernet, and VLAN services. Therefore, it can provide a rich choice of service possibilities to voice and data network service providers. In addition, it provides an ideal wireless backhaul technology to connect 802.11 wireless LANs and commercial hotspots with the Internet.

The WiMAX-based solution is set up and deployed like cellular systems using base stations that service a radius of several miles. The most typical WiMAX-based architecture includes a base station built up on a building and is responsible for communicating on a point to multi-point basis with subscriber stations located in business offices and homes. The customer premise equipment (CPE) connects the base station to a customer as well; the signal of voice and data is then routed through standard Ethernet cable either directly to a single computer, or to an 802.11 hot spot or a wired Ethernet LAN.

WiMAX-based solutions include many other advantages, such as robust security features, good Quality of Service, and mesh and smart antenna technology that will allow better utilization of the spectrum resources. Also, the WiMAX-based voice service can work on either traditional Time Division Multiplexed (TDM) voice or IP-based Voice, also known as Voice over IP (VoIP).

There are two main applications of WiMAX today: fixed WiMAX applications are point-to-multipoint enabling broadband access to homes and businesses, whereas mobile WiMAX offers the full mobility of cellular networks at true broadband speeds. Both fixed and mobile applications of WiMAX are engineered to help deliver ubiquitous, high throughput broadband wireless services at a low cost.

Mobile WiMAX is based on the IEEE 802.16e-2005 standard. Eventually it will migrate to higher levels of the RF spectrum it is presently capable of operating in the 2.3GHz, 2.5GHz, and 3.3-3.8GHz spectrum bands and its channel sizes range from 3.5MHz to 10MHz, which provides the flexibility that mobile operators need to make the best possible use of the band available to them. Mobile WiMAX is designed to leverage the IP infrastructure to deliver high-speed data to handsets, PDAs, and other mobile devices mobile WiMAX can compete with or complement cellular. It has been designed to connect to the IP network; it offers high quality of service and low latency. It will have no difficulty accessing IP multimedia data or implement technologies such as VoIP Mobile WiMAX makes use of Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access technology which has inbuilt advantages in latency, spectral efficiency, throughput and advanced antennae support.

Often people confuse WiMAX with Wi-Fi. Reality check: WiMAX is not Wi-Fi, since the former not only offers exponentially greater range and data rate than Wi-Fi, it is also equipped with carrier grade quality of service and security. Wi-Fi technology has been around for quite some time in the form of 802.11b WLAN solutions that have evolved to include both 802.11a and 802.11g. The primary difference between the 802.11 technologies is the wireless spectrum used and the bandwidth supported. In the industry, 802.11 technologies are referred as technologies for developing wireless solutions inside the building, for example. Generally, Wi-Fi is a one access point with many clients, like PCs, laptops, PDAs; it has a limited coverage area but relatively high bandwidth -up to 54Mbps).

WiMAX provides an international standard for fixed broadband wireless access with planned evolution to mobile. Some other features of WiMAX are that it operates very similarly to Ethernet , using VLAN tags, can utilise either licensed or unlicensed frequencies, can be considered as an alternative to last-mile access (T1/DSL/Cable, etc.).

WiMAX, in combination with existing fixed wireless solutions (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.) can bring together multiple enterprise sites within a given area. It has the potential to cushion or back up costly private fiber installations as well as lower carrier circuit charges. As WiMAX and Wi-Fi become better integrated into a single access point, IT managers can use WiMAX as the backhaul to provide network connectivity in distant buildings. This is particularly attractive to enterprises attempting to link locations that have weak existing infrastructures.


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    • greencap profile image


      7 years ago from Pakistan

      Nice hub.

      The trouble with wimax in Pakistan is 3.5 GHz frequency, which, being a high frequency, has smaller coverage areas. So very difficult to compare with other 3G technologies like EVDO etc.

      Backhauling may be an attractive usage of this technology.


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