The word “WiMax” is an abbreviation of Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access which refers to a new wireless communications technology that is used in high-speed delivery of data and information through the Internet. WiMax often covers a wider geographical area as compared to other wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Infrared and Global Positioning System (GPS).
It was created in 2001 by the WiMax Forum which describes it as the only reliable last-mile wireless broadband access point. According to WiMax Forum, it is the best alternative to cable connection and Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL). WiMax technology was adopted from Wireless Broadband (WiBro) in South Korea. It uses the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.16 network (currently referred to as Fixed WiMax). Vendors who want to sell WiMax are allowed to do so in the form of fixed products that must be certified by WiMax Forum (Cooklev, 2004). The certification allows for easy interoperability with products from other companies that are also certified.
WiMax, like other wireless technologies, is part of the larger Fourth Generation (4G) technology. Even though it is still under development, by 2011 WiMax has enabled users to transfer data at a rate 1 Gigabits compared to when it was developed in 2001 when the rate of transfer was merely 80 Megabits. This offers it greater advantage when compared with cable and DSL connection. Since its introduction, WiMax has undergone numerous developments and its versions have been revised repeatedly, the latest being mobile WiMax which lays the foundation for similar future revisions, such as the 802.16m-2011 (Cooklev, 2004).
Factors behind the Success of WiMax
WiMax has become successful in the recent past due to low costs of acquisition and deployment, as compared to other wireless connection, such as 3G, HSPD and Long Term Evolution (LTE). It also has more substantial backhaul bandwidth requirements, a feature that has catalyzed its use especially in North America and in other parts of the world where microwave links are being upgraded. According to Nuaymi, WiMax supports technologies that make triple-play (or combined) service offerings possible, for instance, Multicasting (Nuaymi, 2007).
WiMax uses wireless technology to connect devices, usually referred to as subscriber units, to the Internet. WiMax gateway devices are available for both indoor and outdoor versions. These gateways can be easily purchased from a variety of manufacturers, such as Huawei and Airspan, thus making it readily available and easy to access.
It similarly provides connectivity through external modems via USB ports. Some mobile phone manufacturers have also included WiMax in their handsets. For example, HTC and Nextel released their WiMax-enabled handsets into market in 2008 and 2010 respectively.
The most successful deployments of WiMax have been in Indonesia and the USA. In Indonesia, WiMax was used to assist in communication after a tsunami that destroyed all communication networks in 2004. In the US, WiMax was used by the Federal Communications Commission for all its communication needs during the rescuing of the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
Uses of WiMax
WiMax has been used to provide mobile broadband connectivity across countries. It also offers an alternative connection mode to cable modems and DSL connections. In addition, it provides data, telecommunications services and acts as a reliable source of Internet connectivity for business operations as well as private individuals (Kubar, 2008).
WiMax can also be used for other applications, such as broadband connections, cellular backhauls and hotspots. The major difference between WiMax and Wi-Fi lies in its ability to allow usage at larger distances.
Drawbacks of WiMax
Like any other wireless technology, WiMax’s efficiency and effectiveness in data transfer reduces as the distance increases. According to Nuaymi, it has been proved that WiMax connectivity cannot deliver data of more than 80 Megabits per second between devices located fifty kilometers apart. Similarly, its performance, speed/transfer rate and capacity reduce as more and more users connect to a single network (Nuaymi, 2007).
Emerging Trends in WiMax Usage
The introduction of WiMax has led to increased competition amongst the players in the Internet communications technology industry market which was once monopolized by DSL. Mobile WiMax has replaced cellular phone technologies, such as Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA).
Fixed WiMax is similarly used for backhauling the second, third and fourth generation wireless technology networks in most countries (Kyriazakos, Soldatos & Karetsos, 2008). Furthermore, WiMax Forum has also proposed a new architecture that will facilitate integration of WiMax into other IP-based networks. On the other hand, WiMax has been faced with strong and stiff competition from wireless technologies such as LTE, Wi-Fi and mesh networking (Pareek, 2006).
As wireless connections progresses to higher bandwidth, more industry players are induced to enter the market while existing ones are trying to improve their services. The consequent result is increase in competition and consequently provision of better quality services, such as high-speed Internet connection. Despite a number of challenges it faces, WiMax offers better Internet connection and services than its competitors.