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WiMax Guide

Light Reading

2005 will probably be the year in which WiMax sinks or swims as the next big thing in telecom technology. For that reason, plenty of people are going to need a quick and easy way of getting up to speed on what WiMax is and why it's stirring up so much interest.

This report aims to provide that quick and easy guide, by answering questions that are most frequently asked about WiMax. In the report's initial form, answers to eight basic questions are given, one per page. But the idea is that readers can ask further questions on the message board attached to this article. If you want to send a private message, please email [email protected] and include "WiMax Guide" in the subject field. Frequently posed questions will be answered by adding pages to this report.

For those that just want a high-level understanding of WiMax, here are the key points:

  • WiMax is a broadband access technology that delivers high-speed, carrier-grade Ethernet data communications by wireless over city-sized distances.
  • Its main use initially will be to deliver broadband Internet connections to buildings by wireless and to provide links between WLAN hotspots and carriers’ core IP networks (backhaul); later, individual user devices such as PCs will be connected direct, and, eventually, mobile devices.
  • Its big attractions are expected to be the usual Ethernet and wireless virtues of low costs, flexibility, ease of rollout and use, and interoperability.
  • However, WiMax is not expected to be fully commercialized until about 2006.

Industry opinions are divided over WiMax's prospects, judging by early results of a poll being conducted on Unstrung, Light Reading's sister Website covering wireless technologies. So far, 48 percent of respondents say WiMax will "emerge as a credible wireless replacement for DSL/cable" and exactly the same percentage say it will "splutter onto the market with minimal impact."

To take the poll yourself and see the full, up-to-date results, please click on this link.

Here's a hyperlinked list of the questions and answers in this report:

Webinar Archives on WiMax

Paid Research Reports on WiMax

— Tim Hills, Freelance Telecommunications Writer and Journalist

Need to know more about the latest developments in WiMax? check out the coming Light Reading Live! conference:

WiMax – Why Now?
at the W Hotel, Union Square, New York City, on Tuesday, January 20, 2005

This one-day event, hosted by Rick Thompson, Heavy Reading Analyst at Large, will provide qualified attendees from Light Reading's global audience an education in how WiMax will fit into their networking development plans for 2005 and beyond.

  • For more information, click here
  • To register, click here
  • Sponsorship opportunities are still available. Direct all inquiries to [email protected].

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12/5/2012 | 3:30:40 AM
re: WiMax Guide
A lot of the press reports on WiMax, and I'm afraid including this one, are apparently written by people who are somewhat familiar with data networking, but are not skilled in the art of microwave radio. So they overstate the case, making it sound simpler than it really is. WiMax is good technology: It is a smarter spec than, say, WiFi (which to be sure is optimized for a lower price point and reflects implementation capabilities of some years ago) and it may well be the best hope for a mass-produced data radio. But it's still a radio.

Think of cellular. CDMA is, like WiMax, very efficient, even more so than analog or GSM. But in most areas it either has lots of cell sites or lots of dead spots. WiMax is similar: Path loss cannot be overcome by clever modulation or even fancy signal processing. Shannon's Law applies with a vengeance; it is not trumped by Moore's Law.

WiMax will find markets; it will find applications. But it won't run DSL and fiber out of business. It won't be the magic bullet that creates Gilder's phantasmagorical Telecosm. It won't widely replace the local loop. It will require careful path engineering, or it will work on an opportunistic basis, like many hot spot services do now.
Peter Heywood
Peter Heywood
12/5/2012 | 3:30:35 AM
re: WiMax Guide
In explaining Wimax, we need to explain its potential, and I guess this is what you're describing as over optimistic.

Take a closer look: We actually start the report saying that 2005 could be the year when Wimax sinks or swims and then go on to quote a poll that indicates that the industry is evenly split on which way it will go.

I don't call this overly optimistic. I call it giving both sides of the argument.

[email protected]
12/5/2012 | 3:30:35 AM
re: WiMax Guide
I'm not sure I would describe the report as "overly optimistic". There is no intention to suggest that WiMax will sweep away wired/fibred broadband - clearly, it won't. No freespace radio system can match the space-division multiplex capabilities of wires and fibres (nor the THz frequencies of optics, for that matter), without even considering all the propagation and similar issues the posting points out.

The point is rather that the broad industry (telecoms, IT and consumer electronics) has understandably got very interested in the idea of wide-area wireless broadband access as a new capability, service and revenue opportunity - and so there is a lot of pressure to try to make this one fly. How it will turn out is anyone's guess at the moment (the report points out a fair number of issues), but it is all part of the technical innovation needed to keep telecoms advancing. It seems a bit unfair to write off a technology just because it doesn't offer the peformance of another technology - aircraft have not yet replaced cars.

Tim Hills
Peter Heywood
Peter Heywood
12/5/2012 | 3:30:34 AM
re: WiMax Guide
We would prefer you post messages about this article on this public board, but if you want to send a private note about it, please email [email protected] and include "wimax guide" in the subject field.
Peter Heywood
Peter Heywood
12/5/2012 | 3:30:33 AM
re: WiMax Guide
This note came in from someone working for a major carrier, who requested anonymity:

One question that the article did not answer was how many simultaneous users a typical WiMax implementation could handle. WLAN can handle up to 230 simultaneous users per node, at lower bandwidth speeds of course, but what is the theoretical limit of users and lower bandwidth constraints and what would be a better quality of service from a bandwidth and simultaneous user perspective (typical implementation)
Peter Heywood
Peter Heywood
12/5/2012 | 3:30:33 AM
re: WiMax Guide
Tim Hills has taken a crack at addressing this issue:

As far as I understand it, from digging in the material I have:


IEEE Std 802.16.2T-2004 (Revision of IEEE Std 802.16.2-2001)

IEEE Recommended Practice for Local and metropolitan area networks

Coexistence of Fixed Broadband Wireless Access Systems

Table 22-Parameters for 3.5 GHz systems with a PMP (point-to-multipoint) architecture (this is a brief sample only - the whole table is much bigger)

Number of terminal stations per megahertz per transceiver per cell - Up to 70.
Number of cells in a system - 1 to 25 (typical range).
Channel bandwidth - 1.5, 3, 6, 12, 25 MHz (North America). 1.75, 3.5, 7, 14 MHz (Europe) (use 7 MHz for coexistence calculations) Typical sector arrangements and frequencies - Typically 4 sectors per cell,
4 frequencies. Vertical and horizontal polarization both used. Some systems will use AAs, pointing at individual users. FDD and TDD used.


This suggests that a single cell transceiver in a 3.5GHz system could support a theoretical maximum of between 105 and 1750 terminal stations per frequency channel for the range of channel bandwidths contemplated in North America. Multiply by 4 to give a cell maximum for the typical 4-sector 4-frequency cell - so 420 to 7000 terminal stations per cell.

But there are lots of complications arising from the highly specific nature of radio propagation in a given environment and the need to avoid interference between different WiMax service providers in the same area. And mesh WiMax architectures have different parameters - and so on.

And I am very prepared to be corrected. Perhaps someone else is better qualified to answer?
12/5/2012 | 3:30:11 AM
re: WiMax Guide
In the section, "In these [unlicensed 2.4 and 5 GHz] bands, WiMax operates at a much lower wireless power and has a very limited range (roughly the same as for WLAN, which also uses these frequency bands)," do you mean to say that the effective range of WiMax in unlicensed bands is no greater than Wi-Fi?
12/5/2012 | 3:29:36 AM
re: WiMax Guide

What is the maximum inter-node distance/range in a WiMAX mesh mode theoretically and practically?

Has anybody compared the mesh part of the two technologies (WiFi & WiMAX?

12/5/2012 | 3:29:34 AM
re: WiMax Guide
Question that has been unanswered in minds of carriers in West is whether market is ready for Wimax to the extent where they could gain a potential momentum in selling Wimax services and migrate to this technology.
Post bubble effects have changed ISPs' attitude towards technology and made them measure technology critically in terms of returns on equity, capital, and assets.They are to answer whether they intend to continue build up
debt based capital structure where take the risk of deploying new technology even with larger debt.

Whereas, in my personal opinion, Wimax seems to be perfect fit in eastern countries like India and China who are still in the process of expanding carrier networks and opt for the latest technology. Market is these countries price driven and at the Wimax does not answer whether it can be cost effective soln to ISPs in these countries.

Time to watch..
12/5/2012 | 3:29:32 AM
re: WiMax Guide

I guess my view is a bit different. The question is why would I want to build yet another broadband High Speed Internet infrastructure. In most places in the US (not ALL but MOST) DSL and Cable Modems are available. In virtually the entire US, either DSL or Cable is available.

So, introducing this technology would have to have an application that did not work today or in places that service was not available today. To build out a network to support commodity High Speed Internet seems highly unlikely, since there are already embedded competitors. The question is what is that application that requires a WiMAX buildout if you already have a significant penetration of broadband deployed. Mobility seems like a logical answer.

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