WiMAX, the Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, is a telecommunications technology that provides for the wireless transmission of data in a variety of ways, ranging from point-to-point links to full mobile cellular-type access. The technology is based on the IEEE 802.16 standard (also called WirelessMAN). 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 cable and DSL” (and also to High Speed Packet Access )
How to access internet today
There are basically three different options:
Broadband access - In your home, you have either a DSL or Cable Modem. At the office, your company may be using a T1 or a T3 line. Wi-Fi access - In your home, you may have set up a WiFi router that lets you surf the Web while you lounge on the deck with your laptop. On the WiMAX transmitting tower road, you can find WiFi hot spots in restaurants, hotels, coffee shops and libraries. Dial-up access - If you are still using dial-up, chances are that either: Broadband access is not available. You think that broadband access is too expensive.
The main problems with broadband access are that it is pretty expensive and it doesn't reach all areas. The main problem with WiFi access is that hot spots are very small, so coverage is sparse. What if there were a new technology that solved all of these problems? This new technology would provide:
The high speed of broadband service Wireless rather than wired access, so it would be a lot less expensive than cable or DSL and much easier to extend to suburban and rural areas Broad coverage like the cell phone network instead of the tiny little hotspots of WiFi
This system is actually coming into being right now, and it is called WiMAX. WiMAX is short for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, and it also goes by the IEEE name 802.16. WiMAX has the potential to do to broadband Internet access what cell phones have done to phone access. In the same way that many people have given up their "land lines" in favor of cell phones, WiMAX could replace cable and DSL services, providing universal Internet access just about anywhere you go. WiMAX will also be as painless as WiFi -- turning your computer on will automatically connect you to the closest available WiMAX antenna.
The terms "fixed WiMAX", "mobile WiMAX", "802.16d" and "802.16e" are frequently used incorrectly.
802.16-2004 is often called 802.16d, since that was the working party that developed the standard. It is also frequently referred to as "fixed WiMAX" since it has no support for mobility. 802.16e-2005 is an amendment to 802.16-2004 and is often referred to in shortened form as 802.16e. It introduced support for mobility, amongst other things and is therefore also known as "mobile WiMAX".
How WiMAX works
In practical terms, WiMAX would operate similar to WiFi but at higher speeds, over greater distances and for a greater number of users. WiMAX could potentially erase the suburban and rural blackout areas that currently have no broadband Internet access because phone and cable companies have not yet run the necessary wires to those remote locations. A WiMAX system consists of two parts:
A WiMAX tower, similar in concept to a cell-phone tower - A single WiMAX tower can provide coverage to a very large area -- as big as 3,000 square miles (~8,000 square km). A WiMAX receiver - The receiver and antenna could be a small box or PCMCIA card, or they could be built into a laptop the way WiFi access is today.
A WiMAX tower station can connect directly to the Internet using a high-bandwidth, wired connection (for example, a T3 line). It can also connect to another WiMAX tower using a line-of-sight, microwave link. This connection to a second tower (often referred to as a backhaul), along with the ability of a single tower to cover up to 3,000 square miles, is what allows WiMAX to provide coverage to remote rural areas.
What this points out is that WiMAX actually can provide two forms of wireless service:
There is the non-line-of-sight, WiFi sort of service, where a small antenna on your computer connects to the tower. In this mode, WiMAX uses a lower frequency range -- 2 GHz to 11 GHz (similar to WiFi). Lower-wavelength transmissions are not as easily disrupted by physical obstructions -- they are better able to diffract, or bend, around obstacles. There is line-of-sight service, where a fixed dish antenna points straight at the WiMAX tower from a rooftop or pole. The line-of-sight connection is stronger and more stable, so it's able to send a lot of data with fewer errors. Line-of-sight transmissions use higher frequencies, with ranges reaching a possible 66 GHz. At higher frequencies, there is less interference and lots more bandwidth.
WiFi-style access will be limited to a 4-to-6 mile radius (perhaps 25 square miles or 65 square km of coverage, which is similar in range to a cell-phone zone). Through the stronger line-of-sight antennas, the WiMAX transmitting station would send data to WiMAX-enabled computers or routers set up within the transmitter's 30-mile radius (3,600 square miles or 9,300 square km of coverage). This is what allows WiMAX to achieve its maximum range.
What is WiMax?
WiMAX has the potential to impact all forms of telecommunications WiMAX has the potential to replace a number of existing telecommunications infrastructures. In a fixed wireless configuration it can replace the telephone company's copper wire networks, the cable TV's coaxial cable infrastructure while offering Internet Service Provider (ISP) services. In its mobile variant, WiMAX has the potential to replace cellular networks. How do we get there? What is WiMAX or Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access? WiMAX is an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE, see http://www.ieee.org) standard designated 802.16-2004 (fixed wireless applications) and 802.16e-2005 (mobile wire-less). The industry trade group WiMAX ForumTM has defined WiMAX as a "last mile" broadband wireless access (BWA) alternative to cable modem service, telephone company Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) or T1/E1 service.
Fixed WiMAX offers cost effective point to point and point to multi-point solutions What makes WiMAX so exciting is the broad range of applications it makes possible but not limited to broadband internet access, T1/E1 substitute for businesses, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) as telephone company substitute, Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) as cable TV substitute, backhaul for Wi-Fi hotspots and cell phone towers, mobile telephone service, mobile data TV, mobile emergency response services, wireless backhaul as substitute for fiber optic cable. WiMAX provides fixed, portable or mobile non-line-of sight service from a base station to a subscriber station, also known as customer premise equipment (CPE). Some goals for WiMAX include a radius of service coverage of 6 miles from a WiMAX base station for point-to-multipoint, non-line-of-sight (see following pages for illustrations and definitions) service. This service should deliver approximately 40 megabits per second (Mbps) for fixed and portable access applications. That WiMAX cell site should offer enough bandwidth to support hundreds of businesses with T1 speeds and thousands of residential customers with the equivalent of DSL services from one base station.
Mobile WiMAX allows any telecommunications to go mobile
Mobile WiMAX takes the fixed wireless application a step further and enables cell phone-like applications on a much larger scale. For example, mobile WiMAX enables streaming video to be broadcast from a speeding police or other emergency vehicle at over 70 MPH. It potentially replaces cell phones and mobile data offerings from cell phone operators such as EvDo, EvDv and HSDPA. In addition to being the final leg in a quadruple play, it offers superior building penetration and improved security measures over fixed WiMAX. Mobile WiMAX will be very valuable for emerging services such as mobile TV and gaming.
Many companies are closely examining WiMAX for last mile connectivity. The resulting competition may bring lower pricing for both home and business customers or bring broadband access to places where it has been economically unavailable. WiMAX access was used to assist with communications in Aceh, Indonesia, after the tsunami in December 2004. All communication infrastructure in the area, other than Ham Radio, was destroyed, making the survivors unable to communicate with people outside the disaster area and vice versa. WiMAX provided broadband access that helped regenerate communication to and from Aceh.
WiMAX subscriber units are available in both indoor and outdoor versions from several manufacturers. Self-install indoor units are convenient, but radio losses mean that the subscriber must be significantly closer to the WiMAX base station than with professionally-installed external units. As such, indoor-installed units require a much higher infrastructure investment as well as operational cost due to the high number of base stations required to cover a given area. Indoor units are comparable in size to a cable modem or DSL modem. Outdoor units are roughly the size of a laptop PC, and their installation is comparable to a residential satellite dish. With the potential of mobile WiMAX, there is an increasing focus on portable units. This includes handsets and PC peripherals. In addition, there is much emphasis from operators on consumer electronics devices (game terminals, MP3 players and the like); it is notable this is more similar to Wi-Fi than 3G cellular technologies.
Backhaul/access network applications
WiMAX is a possible replacement candidate for cellular phone technologies such as GSM and CDMA, or can be used as a layover to increase capacity. It has also been considered as a wireless backhaul technology for 2G, 3G, and 4G networks in both developed and developing nations. "Backhaul" for remote cellular operations is typically provided via satellite, and in urban areas via one or several T1 connections. WiMAX is mobile broadband and as such has much more substantial backhaul needed. Therefore traditional backhaul solutions are not appropriate. Consequently the role of very high capacity wireless microwave point-topoint backhaul (200 or more Mbit/s with typically 1 ms or less delay) is on the rise. Also fiber backhaul is more appropriate. Deploying WiMAX in rural areas with limited or no internet backbone will be challenging as additional methods and hardware will be required to procure sufficient bandwidth from the nearest sources — the difficulty being in proportion to the distance between the end-user and the nearest sufficient internet backbone. Given the limited wired infrastructure in some developing countries, the costs to install a WiMAX station in conjunction with an existing cellular tower or even as a solitary hub are likely to be small in comparison to developing a wired solution. Areas of low population density and flat terrain are particularly suited to WiMAX and its range. For countries that have skipped wired infrastructure as a result of prohibitive costs and unsympathetic geography, WiMAX can enhance wireless infrastructure in an inexpensive, decentralized, deployment-friendly and effective manner.
WiMAX is a term coined to describe standard, interoperable implementations of IEEE 802.16 wireless networks, similar to the way the term Wi-Fi is used for interoperable implementations of the IEEE 802.11 Wireless LAN standard. However, WiMAX is very different from Wi-Fi in the way it works.
MAC layer/data link layer
In Wi-Fi the media access controller (MAC) uses contention access — all subscriber stations that wish to pass data through a wireless access point (AP) are competing for the AP's attention on a random interrupt basis. This can cause subscriber stations distant from the AP to be repeatedly interrupted by closer stations, greatly reducing their throughput. This makes services such as Voice over IP (VoIP) or IPTV, which depend on an essentially-constant Quality of Service (QoS) depending on data rate and interruptibility, difficult to maintain for more than a few simultaneous users. In contrast, the 802.16 MAC uses a scheduling algorithm for which the subscriber station needs to compete only once (for initial entry into the network). After that it is allocated an access slot by the base station. The time slot can enlarge and contract, but remains assigned to the subscriber station, which means that other subscribers cannot use it. In addition to being stable under overload and over-subscription (unlike 802.11), the 802.16 scheduling algorithm can also be more bandwidth efficient. The scheduling algorithm also allows the base station to control QoS parameters by balancing the time-slot assignments among the application needs of the subscriber stations.
The original version of the standard on which WiMAX is based (IEEE 802.16) specified a physical layer operating in the 10 to 66 GHz range. 802.16a, updated in 2004 to 802.162004, added specifications for the 2 to 11 GHz range. 802.16-2004 was updated by 802.16e-2005 in 2005 and uses scalable orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (SOFDMA) as opposed to the OFDM version with 256 sub-carriers (of which 200 are used) in 802.16d. More advanced versions, including 802.16e, also bring Multiple Antenna Support through Multiple-input multiple-output communications (MIMO) .This brings potential benefits in terms of coverage, self installation, power consumption, frequency re-use and bandwidth efficiency. 802.16e also adds a capability for full mobility support. The WiMAX certification allows vendors with 802.16d products to sell their equipment as WiMAX certified, thus ensuring a level of interoperability with other certified products, as long as they fit the same profile. Most commercial interest is in the 802.16d and .16e standards, since the lower frequencies used in these variants suffer less from inherent signal attenuation and therefore give improved range and in-building penetration. Already today, a number of
networks throughout the world are in commercial operation using certified WiMAX equipment compliant with the 802.16d standard.
The WiMAX Forum has defined an architecture that defines how a WiMAX network connects with other networks, and a variety of other aspects of operating such a network, including address allocation, authentication, etc. An overview of the architecture is given in the illustration. This defines the following components
SS/MS: the Subscriber Station/Mobile Station ASN: the Access Service Network BS: Base station, part of the ASN ASN-GW: the ASN Gateway, part of the ASN CSN: the Connectivity Service Network HA: Home Agent, part of the CSN AAA: AAA Server, part of the CSN NAP: a Network Access Provider NSP: a Network Service Provider
and a number of interconnections (or reference points) between these. The functional architecture can be designed into various hardware configurations rather than fixed configurations. For example, the architecture is flexible enough to allow remote/mobile stations of varying scale and functionality and Base Stations of varying size - e.g. femto, pico, and mini BS as well as macros.
WiMAX is not Wi-Fi:
Figure 4 Where Wi-Fi covers an office or coffee shop, WiMAX covers a city One of the most often heard descriptions of WiMAX in the press is that it is "Wi-Fi on steroids". In truth, it is considerably more than that. Not only does WiMAX offer exponentially greater range and throughput than Wi-Fi (technically speaking 802.11b, although new variants of 802.11 offer substantial improvements over the "b" variant of 802.11), it also offers carrier grade quality of service (QoS) and security. Wi-Fi has been notorious for its lack of security. The "b" variant of 802.11 offered no prioritization of traffic making it less than ideal for voice or video. The limited range and throughput of Wi-Fi means that a Wi-Fi service provider must deploy multiple access points in order to cover the same area and service the same number of customers as one WiMAX base station (note the differences in nomenclature). The IEEE 802.11 Working group has since approved upgrades for 802.11 security and QoS.
Comparison with Wi-Fi
Comparisons and confusion between WiMAX and Wi-Fi are frequent, possibly because both begin with the same two letters, are based upon IEEE standards beginning with "802.", and are related to wireless connectivity and Internet access. However, the two standards are aimed at different applications.
WiMAX is a long-range system, covering many kilometers that typically uses licensed spectrum (although it is possible to use unlicensed spectrum) to deliver a point-to-point connection to the Internet from an ISP to an end user. Different
802.16 standards provide different types of access, from mobile (similar to a cell phone) to fixed (an alternative to wired access, where the end user's wireless termination point is fixed in location.) Wi-Fi is a shorter range system, typically tens of meters that uses unlicensed spectrum to provide access to a network. Typically Wi-Fi is used by an end user to access their own network, which may or may not be connected to the Internet. If WiMAX provides services analogous to a cell phone, Wi-Fi is similar to a cordless phone. WiMAX and Wi-Fi have quite different Quality of Service (QoS) mechanisms. WiMAX uses a mechanism based on connections between the Base Station and the user device. Each connection is based on specific scheduling algorithms, which means that QoS parameters can be guaranteed for each flow. Wi-Fi has introduced a QoS mechanism similar to fixed Ethernet, where packets can receive different priorities based on their tags. This means that QoS is relative between packets/flows, as opposed to guaranteed. WiMAX is highly scalable from what are called "femto"-scale remote stations to multi-sector 'maxi' scale base that handle complex tasks of management and mobile handoff functions and include MIMO-AAS smart antenna subsystems.
Due to the ease and low cost with which Wi-Fi can be deployed, it is sometimes used to provide Internet access to third parties within a single room or building available to the provider, often informally, and sometimes as part of a business relationship.
One of the significant advantages of advanced wireless systems such as WiMAX is spectral efficiency. For example, 802.16-2004 (fixed) has a spectral efficiency of 3.7 (bit/s)/Hertz, and other 3.5–4G wireless systems offer spectral efficiencies that are similar to within a few tenths of a percent. The notable advantage of WiMAX comes from combining SOFDMA with smart antenna technologies. This multiplies the effective spectral efficiency through multiple reuse and smart network deployment topologies. The direct use of frequency domain organization simplifies designs using MIMO-AAS compared to CDMA/WCDMA methods, resulting in more-effective systems.
The bandwidth and range of WiMAX make it suitable for the following potential applications:
Connecting Wi-Fi hotspots with other parts of the Internet. Providing a wireless alternative to cable and DSL for "last mile" broadband access. Providing data and telecommunications services. Providing a source of Internet connectivity as part of a business continuity plan. That is, if a business has a fixed and a wireless Internet connection, especially
from unrelated providers, they are unlikely to be affected by the same service outage. Providing portable connectivity.
A commonly-held misconception is that WiMAX will deliver 70 Mbit/s over 50 kilometers. In reality, WiMAX can do one or the other — operating over maximum range (50 km) increases bit error rate and thus must use a lower bitrate. Lowering the range allows a device to operate at higher bitrates. Typically, fixed WiMAX networks have a higher-gain directional antenna installed near the client (customer) which results in greatly increased range and throughput. Mobile WiMAX networks are usually made of indoor "customer premises equipment" (CPE) such as desktop modems, laptops with integrated Mobile WiMAX or other Mobile WiMAX devices. Mobile WiMAX devices typically have an omni-directional antenna which is of lower-gain compared to directional antennas but are more portable. Like most wireless systems, available bandwidth is shared between users in a given radio sector, so performance could deteriorate in the case of many active users in a single sector. In practice, many users will have a range of 2-, 4-, 6-, 8-, 10- or 12 Mbit/s services and additional radio cards will be added to the base station to increase the capacity as required. Because of this, various granular and distributed network architectures are being incorporated into WiMAX through independent development and within the 802.16j mobile multi-hop relay (MMR) task group. This includes wireless mesh, grids, network remote station repeaters which can extend networks and connect to backhaul.
The WiMAX Forum is a non profit organization formed to promote the adoption of WiMax compatible products and services A major role for the organization is to certify the interoperability of WiMAX products. Those that pass conformance and interoperability testing achieve the "WiMAX Forum Certified" designation and can display this mark on their products and marketing materials. Some vendors claim that their equipment is "WiMAX-ready", "WiMAXcompliant", or "pre-WiMAX", if they are not officially WiMAX Forum Certified.
WiMAX Spectrum Owners Alliance
WiSOA is the first global organization composed exclusively of owners of WiMAX spectrum with plans to deploy WiMAX technology in those bands. WiSOA is focussed on the regulation, commercialisation, and deployment of WiMAX spectrum in the 2.3–
2.5 GHz and the 3.4–3.5 GHz ranges. WiSOA are dedicated to educating and informing its members, industry representatives and government regulators of the importance of WiMAX spectrum, its use, and the potential for WiMAX to revolutionise broadband.
Speed vs. Mobility of wireless systems: Wi-Fi, HSPA, UMTS, GSM Within the marketplace, WiMAX's main competition comes from existing widely deployed wireless systems such as UMTS and CDMA2000, as well as a number of Internet oriented systems such as HIPERMAN. 3G cellular phone systems usually benefit from already having entrenched infrastructure, being upgraded from earlier systems. Users can usually fall back to older systems when they move out of range of upgraded equipment, often relatively seamlessly. The major cellular standards are being evolved to so-called 4G, high bandwidth, low latency, all-IP networks with voice services built on top. With GSM/UMTS, the move to 4G is the 3GPP Long Term Evolution effort. For AMPS/TIA derived standards such as CDMA2000, a replacement called Ultra Mobile Broadband is under development. In both cases, existing air interfaces are being discarded, in favour of OFDMA for the downlink and a variety of OFDM based techniques for the uplink, much akin to WiMAX. 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.
Mobile WiMAX based upon 802.16e-2005 has been accepted as IP-OFDMA for inclusion as the sixth wireless link system under IMT-2000. This can hasten acceptance by regulatory authorities and operators for use in cellular spectrum. WiMAX II, 802.16m will be proposed for IMT-Advanced 4G. The goal for the long term evolution of both WiMAX and LTE is to achieve 100 Mbit/s mobile and 1 Gbit/s fixed-nomadic bandwidth as set by ITU for 4G NGMN (Next Generation Mobile Network) systems through the adaptive use of MIMO-AAS and smart, granular network topologies. 3GPP LTE and WiMAX-m are concentrating much effort on MIMO-AAS, mobile multi-hop relay networking and related developments needed to deliver 10X and higher Co-Channel reuse multiples. Since the evolution of core air-link technologies has approached the practical limits imposed by Shannon's Theorem, the evolution of wireless has embarked on pursuit of the 3X to 10X+ greater bandwidth and network efficiency by advances in the spatial and smart wireless broadband networking technologies.
Currently, Pakistan has the largest fully functional Wimax network in the world. Wateen Telecom installed the network (with an initial rollout in seventeen cities) throughout Pakistan using Motorola hardware. Technologically, WiMax shows a lot of promise. In matters of throughput, it opens the door to numerous services such as Voice over IP, and, in time, the use of a single terminal that will centralise all of our communication tools. Its capacity in covering "the last kilometre" is particularly attractive to France Telecom's R&D, which is actively working on providing broadband coverage to 90% of the metropolitan population. This is an ideal complement to cabled networks. But on a planetary scale, developing countries are the ones that could take advantage of this efficient, and initially, less costly technology to infuse new growth in their economies.