The Diffusion of WiMax Technology: Hurdles and Opportunities

The Diffusion of WiMax Technology: Hurdles and Opportunities

Phillip Olla (Madonna University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-194-0.ch037
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A fundamental goal of the wireless industry is to economically offer ubiquitous broadband access to a large number of people in diverse geographical settings. WiMax technology has the potential to be a leading cost-effective technology in the wireless industry, providing opportunities to mobile service providers who lack a Third Generation (3G) license or related infrastructure. WiMax benefits from widespread industry backing and established standards. This chapter will focus on the potential of WiMax technology to deliver personal broadband and fixed Internet capabilities. The chapter applies the diffusion of the Global Internet framework to analyze the current state of WiMax deployments along with the difficulties in developing a WiMax network and building a subscribers base.
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Over the last decade mobile voice has evolved from a niche technology to a must have service, with users adopting this innovation into all aspects of their daily lives. In conjunction with the widespread adoption of mobile phones, a broadband revolution is also happening around the globe due to the proliferation of technologies such as Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), cable modem, and broadband wireless services. The next major evolution in communications will see the convergence of both mobile and broadband technologies to create a phenomenon called Personal Broadband (PB) or Mobile Broadband Internet (MBI). Personal Broadband can be viewed as a fusion of the two perpetual markets of mobile voice and broadband, aiming to serve four types of customers: those migrating from mobile voice services and seeking higher speeds for multimedia applications, fixed users who want mobility, WiFi users seeking additional range, and new users who will adopt the new generation of services and applications generated by personal broadband technologies. There are currently three competing technologies capable of broadcasting wireless data at broadband speeds to achieve Personal Broadband. The first is the evolution of the traditional cellular network to provide increasing data bandwidth from a few bits per second with wireless application protocol (WAP) or enhanced data rates for GSM evolution (EDGE) enabled handsets, to a few hundred kilobits per second with evolution-data optimized (EVDO) or high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA), to the promise of millions of bits per second with the eventual Long-Term Evolution of the 3G standard (3G LTE). Another approach being pursued involves using WiFi to create a mesh network. A wireless mesh network is a network created through the connection of wireless access points installed at each network user’s locale. Another interesting approach involves the use of Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMax) technology, WiMax which began as a fixed broadband access technology, and has recently added features to enable mobility. WiMax can deliver capacity similar to the 3G LTE but is being deployed in networks now, while the 3G LTE is not expected to be available for at least two years. This chapter will focus on the potential of WiMax technology to deliver personal broadband and fixed Internet capabilities using the diffusion of the Global Internet framework to analyze the current state of WiMax deployments along with the difficulties in developing a WiMax network and building a subscribers base. The framework employed is beneficial to the discussion because it allows for an analysis along multiple dimensions which incorporate various perspectives such as political, technological, social, economic, and historical factors that have shaped the evolution WiMax phenomenon. WiMax is a standards-based technology that facilitates the delivery of wireless broadband access as an alternative to wired broadband like cable and DSL. WiMax stands for ‘World Interoperability for Microwave Access, and is a wireless network infrastructure based on the IEEE 802.16 standard. WiMax provides fixed, nomadic, portable and mobile wireless broadband connectivity without the need for direct line-of-sight with a base station.

This chapter is structured as follows: The first section provides a background discussion on the diffusion of the Internet models along with a discussion on the global diffusion of the Internet framework employed to examine WiMax diffusion; this is followed by an overview of WiMax connectivity infrastructure. The next section describes the market segmentation. This is followed by a discussion on potential hurdles for deploying a WiMax network. Prior to the conclusion, a section discussing the future trend of personal broadband is presented.

Key Terms in this Chapter

CDMA: Code-Division Multiple Access, (CDMA) is used in both 2G and 3G systems. It is a “spread spectrum” technology, allowing many users to occupy the same time and frequency allocations in a given space. It assigns unique codes to each communication to differentiate it from others in the same spectrum.

UMTS: Universal Mobile Telecommunications System is one of the third-generation (3G) mobile technologies. Currently, the most common form of UMTS uses W-CDMA as the underlying air interface. It is standardized by the 3GPP, and is the European answer to the ITU IMT-2000 requirements for 3G cellular radio systems.

Mobile WiMax: Mobile WiMax refers to systems built using IEEE 802.16e-2005 standard and the OFDM as the air interface technology. “Mobile WiMax” implementations can be used to deliver both fixed and mobile services and support hand-off similar to cellular services.

OFDM: Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM / OFDMA) technology. This is a technique for transmitting large amounts of digital data over a radio waves. OFDM works by splitting the radio signal into multiple smaller sub-signals that are then transmitted simultaneously at different frequencies to the receiver.

Fixed WiMax: Fixed WiMax refers to systems built using the IEEE 802.16-2004 (‘802.16d’) standard and they use the OFDM as the air interface technology. Fixed WiMax deployments cannot cater for handoff between Base Stations, therefore the service provider cannot offer mobility.

3G: The generation of mobile phone standards and technology. It is based on the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standards under the International Mobile Telecommunications program

WiMAX: Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, is a mobile technology aimed at delivering wireless data over long distances It is based on the IEEE 802.16 standard. The name WiMax was created by the WiMax Forum, which was formed in June 2001 to promote interoperability of the standard and certify products.

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