What is WiMAX?
A bunch of buddies and I want to set up a wireless network for our apartment building, but the wifi systems we've experimented with seem not to have sufficient range. We'd like to have it cover a few blocks, rather than just a few rooms in the building. I've heard about WiMAX but know nothing about it. Can you enlighten me?
Alright, this is pretty darn geeky, but it's a great question because I've also been wondering if I could set up my own highly-encrypted wireless network that had a couple of miles of reach! Share the incoming Internet connection with a half-dozen colleagues and it could be quite cost-effective as a distributed office networking solution (and a nice way to share printers and other devices too).
As a result, I've been watching the development of the WiMAX standard and eagerly hoping to get involved with a test deployment. It's still a bit early in its development, however, and the rough costs I've seen are about $12,000 for a basic installation. More intimidating, it seems to require a tower for the heavy-duty antenna, not something I can surreptitiously install in my area!
WiMAX, by the way, is also often called 802.16 (remember, standard wireless is 802.11)
If you can handle highly-technical articles, Intel Technology Journal has a nice piece written by Intel's Scott Richardson entitled Emerging Broadband Networks: The Case for WiMAX, wherein it states:
"WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is poised to become a key technical underpinning of fixed, portable and mobile data networks. WiMAX is an implementation of the emerging IEEE 802.16 standard that uses Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) for optimization of wireless data services. OFDM technology uses "sub-carrier optimization," assigning small sub-carriers (kHz) to users based on radio frequency conditions. This enhanced spectral efficiency is a great benefit to OFDM networks and makes them very well suited to high-speed data connections for both fixed and mobile users. Systems based on the emerging IEEE 802.16 standards are the only standardized OFDM-based Wireless Wide Area Networks (WWAN) infrastructure platforms today.
"Service providers will operate WiMAX on licensed and unlicensed frequencies. The technology enables long distance wireless connections with speeds up to 75 megabits per second. (However, network planning assumes a WiMAX base station installation will cover the same area as cellular base stations do today.) Wireless WANs based on WiMAX technology cover a much greater distance than Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN), connecting buildings to one another over a broad geographic area. WiMAX can be used for a number of applications, including "last mile" broadband connections, hotspot and cellular backhaul, and high-speed enterprise connectivity for businesses."
Too detailed? Fortunately there are other reference sources for learning more about WiMAX, including Wikipedia, which states:
"Early products are likely to be aimed at network service providers (SPs) and businesses, not consumers. It has the potential to enable millions more to have wireless Internet connectivity, cheaply and easily. Proponents say that WiMAX wireless coverage will be measured in square kilometers while that of Wi-Fi is measured in square meters. According to WiMAX promoters, each WiMAX node or "base station" would enable high-speed Internet connectivity between homes and businesses in a radius of up to 50 km (31 miles). (It should be noted that these claims, especially that such distances can be achieved without LOS (line of sight), represent, at best, a theoretical maximum under ideal circumstances. The technical merit of these claims has yet to be tested in the real world.) These base stations will eventually cover an entire metropolitan area, making that area into a WMAN and allowing true wireless mobility within it, as opposed to hot-spot hopping required by Wi-Fi. Its proponents are hoping that the technology will eventually be used in notebook computers and PDAs. True roaming cell-like wireless broadband, however, will require 802.16e."
In a nutshell, WiMAX is just showing up on the scene, it offers great capabilities, but it's really not for us entrepreneurial networking types yet, even if you're an über-geek.
Of course, I could be wrong about that! If someone does have a test deployment of WiMAX, I would love to hear about it, so please do either leave a comment here or drop me a note!
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