WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a telecommunications protocol that provides fixed and fully mobile Internet access. The current WiMAX revision provides up to 40 Mbit/s with the IEEE 802.16m update expected to offer up to 1 Gbit/s fixed speeds. The name "WiMAX" was created by the WiMAX Forum, which was formed in June 2001 to promote conformity and interoperability of the standard. The forum describes WiMAX as "a standards-based technology enabling the delivery of last mile wireless broadband access as an alternative to wireline communications services.
WiMAX refers to interoperable implementations of the IEEE 802.16 wireless-networks standard (ratified by the WiMAX Forum), in similarity with Wi-Fi, which refers to interoperable implementations of the IEEE 802.11 Wireless LAN standard (ratified by the Wi-Fi Alliance). The WiMAX Forum certification allows vendors to sell their equipment as WiMAX (Fixed or Mobile) certified, thus ensuring a level of interoperability with other certified products, as long as they fit the same profile.
The IEEE 802.16 standard forms the basis of 'WiMAX' and is sometimes referred to colloquially as "WiMAX", "Fixed WiMAX", "Mobile WiMAX", "802.16d" and "802.16e." Clarification of the formal names are as follow: 802.16-2004 is also known as 802.16d, which refers to the working party that has developed that standard. It is sometimes referred to as "Fixed WiMAX," since it has no support for mobility. 802.16e-2005, often abbreviated to 802.16e, is an amendment to 802.16-2004. It introduced support for mobility, among other things and is therefore also known as "Mobile WiMAX". Mobile WiMAX is the WiMAX incarnation that has the most commercial interest to date and is being actively deployed in many countries. Mobile WiMAX is also the basis of future revisions of WiMAX. As such, references to and comparisons with "WiMAX" in this Wikipedia article mean "Mobile WiMAX".
The bandwidth and range of WiMAX make it suitable for the following potential applications: Providing portable mobile broadband connectivity across cities and countries through a variety of devices. Providing a wireless alternative to cable and DSL for "last mile" broadband access. Providing data, telecommunications (VoIP) and IPTV services (triple play). Providing a source of Internet connectivity as part of a business continuity plan. Broadband Companies are deploying WiMAX to provide mobile broadband or at-home broadband connectivity across whole cities or countries. In many cases this has resulted in competition in markets which typically only had access to broadband through an existing incumbent DSL (or similar) operator. Additionally, given the relatively low cost to deploy a WiMAX network (in comparison to GSM, DSL or Fiber-Optic), it is now possible to provide broadband in places where it might have been previously economically unviable.
WiMAX is a possible replacement candidate for cellular phone technologies such as GSM and CDMA, or can be used as an overlay to increase capacity. Fixed WiMAX is also considered as a wireless backhaul technology for 2G, 3G, and 4G networks in both developed and developing nations. In North America, backhaul for urban cellular operations is typically provided via one or more copper wire line T1 connections, whereas remote cellular operations are sometimes backhauled via satellite.
In most other regions, urban and rural backhaul is usually provided by microwave links. (The exception to this is where the network is operated by an incumbent with ready access to the copper network, in which case T1 lines may be used.) WiMAX is a broadband platform and as such has much more substantial backhaul bandwidth requirements than legacy cellular applications. Therefore, traditional copper wire line backhaul solutions are not appropriate. Consequently the use of wireless microwave backhaul is on the rise in North America and existing microwave backhaul links in all regions are being upgraded. Capacities of between 34 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s are routinely being deployed with latencies in the order of 1 ms. In many cases, operators are aggregating sites using wireless technology and then presenting traffic on to fiber networks where convenient.
As a standard intended to satisfy needs of next-generation data networks (4G), WiMAX is distinguished by its dynamic burst algorithm modulation adaptive to the physical environment the RF signal travels through. Modulation is chosen to be more spectrally efficient (more bits per OFDM/SOFDMA symbol). That is, when the bursts have a high signal strength and a high carrier to noise plus interference ratio (CINR), they can be more easily decoded using digital signal processing (DSP). In contrast, operating in less favorable environments for RF communication, the system automatically steps down to a more robust mode (burst profile) which means fewer bits per OFDM/SOFDMA symbol; with the advantage that power per bit is higher and therefore simpler accurate signal processing can be performed.
Burst profiles are used inverse (algorithmically dynamic) to low signal attenuation; meaning throughput between clients and the base station is determined largely by distance. Maximum distance is achieved by the use of the most robust burst setting; that is, the profile with the largest MAC frame allocation trade-off requiring more symbols (a larger portion of the MAC frame) to be allocated in transmitting a given amount of data than if the client were closer to the base station.
The client's MAC frame and their individual burst profiles are defined as well as the specific time allocation. However, even if this is done automatically then the practical deployment should avoid high interference and multipath environments. The reason for which is obviously that too much interference causes the network function poorly and can also misrepresent the capability of the network.
The system is complex to deploy as it is necessary to track not only the signal strength and CINR (as in systems like GSM) but also how the available frequencies will be dynamically assigned (resulting in dynamic changes to the available bandwidth.) This could lead to cluttered frequencies with slow response times or lost frames.
As a result the system has to be initially designed in consensus with the base station product team to accurately project frequency use, interference, and general product functionality.
Asia Pacific region has surpassed North America of the largest number of 4G broadband wireless subscribers. There were around 1.7 million pre-WIMAX and WIMAX customers in Asia - 29% of the overall market - compared to 1.4 million in the USA and Canada.
There is no uniform global licensed spectrum for WiMAX, however the WiMAX Forum has published three licensed spectrum profiles: 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz and 3.5 GHz, in an effort to drive standardisation and decrease cost. In the USA, the biggest segment available is around 2.5 GHz, and is already assigned, Elsewhere in the world, the most-likely bands used will be the Forum approved ones, with 2.3 GHz probably being most important in Asia. Some countries in Asia like India and Indonesia will use a mix of 2.5 GHz, 3.3 GHz and other frequencies.
Within the marketplace, WiMAX's main competition comes from existing, widely deployed wireless systems such as UMTS, CDMA2000, existing Wi-Fi and mesh networking. In the future, competition will be from the evolution of the major cellular standards to so-called 4G, high-bandwidth, low-latency, all-IP networks with voice services built on top. The worldwide move to 4G for GSM/UMTS and AMPS/TIA (including CDMA2000) is the 3GPP Long Term Evolution effort.
LTE is expected to be ratified at the end of 2010, with commercial implementations becoming viable within the next two years. End of 2009 TeliaSonera started commercial deployment in Oslo and Stockholm. In Denmark the 3 big telecoms are upgrading their network, and will make LTE available during 2010. In some areas of the world, the wide availability of UMTS and a general desire for standardization has meant spectrum has not been allocated for WiMAX: in July 2005, the EU-wide frequency allocation for WiMAX was blocked.