A battle is brewing between WiMAX and
LTE for wireless broadband supremacy
by Max Bloom
hen most Americans think of mobile streaming 10Mbps on the uplink. Clearwire, the largest U.S. provider,
video, they probably think of watching YouTube promises a more realistic but still speedy 2Mbps–4Mbps
or Hulu via Wi-Fi in a Starbucks, library, or airport. coming down and 1Mbps–2Mbps going up.
Less sedentary mobile streaming mavens might think of Still in its infancy as a wireless standard, WiMAX
video streaming through a 3G cellular network to or from has already been used to solve a variety of video-
a smartphone. In the former scenario, data rates can slow data-transport dilemmas where wired lines are impractical,
to a crawl as users pile onto a local Wi-Fi network, while satellite or microwave trucks are too costly, and currently
today’s 3G cellular networks (GSM/HSPA for AT&T and available cellular networks provide insufficient bandwidth:
T-Mobile; CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A for Sprint and Verizon) • During the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, local
offer download speeds in the range of 600Kbps to ABC affiliate KGMH used WiMAX to feed live video at 1Mbps from the
1.4Mbps and upload speeds between 500Kbps and daily press briefing, freeing up the station’s microwave truck and
800Kbps—not enough for, say, live video chat. But avoiding entanglement in an already stressed telco infrastructure.
WiMAX, the first incarnation of a new generation of wire- • TourTechSupport, an IT support services company based in
less broadband technology, is poised to change the way Raleigh, N.C., used WiMAX for an April 2008 live webcast at the
that both types of users experience streaming video. New York red-carpet premiere of the feature film, Made of
WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Honor. “WiMAX is the fastest and easiest way that we’re aware of
Access) actually refers to two currently deployed IEEE to get good, reliable bandwidth [in urban settings],” says
(Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) standards: TourTechSupport founder and CEO Allen Cook.
fixed WiMAX (802.16d) and the newer mobile WiMAX • Intel, Clearwire, and Livecast partnered in January with
(802.16e). Originally conceived as a wide-area alternative to Portland’s MAX Light Rail system for a pilot project in which GPS-
Wi-Fi, WiMAX coverage is often measured in miles, not feet. enabled cameras mounted on commuter trains enabled live
(Proponents refer to WiMAX as “Wi-Fi on steroids” and its website monitoring of track status and train locations.
coverage area as “über hotspots.”) “WiMAX is the only
mobile network out there capable of handling streaming WiMAX is being deployed in both residential and
media today,” says Bar