The Future of WiMAX

The Future of WiMAX

Dennis Viehland, Sheenu Chawla
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-042-6.ch020
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WiMAX is being promoted as a potential solution to a number of problems that have plagued the wired and wireless broadband industry since it originated. Can WiMAX fulfill this promise in a crowded and competitive market? If so, what factors are critical to its success? Who will use WiMAX and for what purposes? This chapter identifies both the critical success factors that will give WiMAX an edge over other existing wireless technologies and the key applications that will contribute to its success. The top three critical success factors for WiMAX are availability of handset devices and consumer premise equipment, bandwidth speed, and interoperability and standardization. A panel of WiMAX experts concludes that broadband on demand, wireless services provider access, and Voice over IP are the top three killer applications for WiMAX.
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This section begins by offering a brief explanation of WiMAX. More detailed material on WiMAX is available from a variety of sources including Pareek (2006), Senza Fili Consulting (2005), Thelander (2005), and the WiMAX Forum ( Then WiMAX capabilities are explored in more depth by identifying 12 factors that distinguish WiMAX from other wireless technologies. Indeed, this subsection offers the most comprehensive comparison of competing telecommunication technologies currently available in the literature. Finally, opportunities for deployment of WiMAX are explored by identifying six potential applications or application areas.

Overview of WiMAX

WiMAX is sometimes called a wireless metropolitan area network or WMAN because its intended range of 50 kilometers (31.1 miles) is approximately the size of a metropolitan area. As such, WiMAX sits between wireless local area network (WLAN) technologies such as Wi-Fi and the cellular networks used on mobile telephones (wireless wide area networks or WWAN). Unlike Wi-Fi, WiMAX is available at anytime and anywhere in the coverage area; so a “meeting warrior” could move from location to location without having to make new connections to a new local area network each time. WiMAX’s advantage over cellular networks is speed – at 72 Mbps (peak rate), WiMAX is faster than any 3G cellular network and comparable to data rate speeds expected for Long Term Evolution (LTE) or 4G. What gives WiMAX its high data rate is orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), which allows multiple carrier signals to be sent at different frequencies, some of the bits on each channel.

WiMAX is based on the broadband wireless access standard IEEE 802.16. There are two forms of WiMAX – fixed version (IEEE 802.16-2004) and the mobile version (IEEE 802.16-2005). This study focuses on the mobile version of WiMAX, and all references to WiMAX in this chapter refer to mobile WiMAX unless explicitly stated otherwise.

WiMAX is no longer just an imaginary tale. After ratification of the Mobile IEEE 802.16 standard in 2006, several WiMAX networks have been tried and deployed in South Korea (Wu, 2006), the United States (“Sprint Nextel Announces”, 2006), and New Zealand (“Hamilton Poised to Become”, 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Wireless Metropolitan Area Network (WMAN): A wireless network intended to provide a signal over an area approximately the size of a metropolitan area – approximately 50 kilometers or 31 miles.

WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access): A wireless technology that delivers data rates as high as 72 Mbps over a large geographical area, up to about 50 kilometers (31 miles).

IEEE 802.16: A set of wireless broadband standards for wireless metropolitan area networks, usually commercialized as WiMAX. The two dominant standards are 802.16-2004 (also 802.16d) that governs fixed WiMAX (signal delivery to devices in homes and offices) and 802.16-2005 (also 802.16e) that governs mobile WiMAX (signal delivery to devices in mobile devices).

WiMAX Forum: A industry-based organization established to promote the compatibility and interoperability of broadband wireless products based on the IEEE 802.16 standard.

Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing Access (OFDM): A signal modulation technology that allows multiple carrier signals to be sent at different frequencies, some of the bits on each channel. OFDM is used in both WiMAX and LTE (4G).

Killer Application: An application, service or usage scenario that creates compelling value to reach widespread popularity among a large number of users.

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