Wi-Fi

Sanity check: Is WiMAX almost here and will it unlock the next stage of the Internet?

During this decade, few technologies have been as widely hyped and as broadly anticipated as WiMAX. But how close is it to commercial availability, what will the real world WiMAX features look like, and does it represent the next stage of the Internet? This week's Tech Sanity Check has the answers.

To cut through the haze of WiMAX buzz and hype, I went to Chicago on September 25-27 for WiMAX World 2007 to see how close WiMAX is to being widely available and to get a clear view of what the services are going to look like when they go live. Most of all, I wanted to get a sense for whether WiMAX is truly on track to revolutionize mobile Internet access and bring fast, affordable broadband Internet to new corners of the world, or if it is being hyped by overzealous expectations.

I'm glad to report - and you can mark it down in pen - that 2008 will be the year that WiMAX arrives in full force as a new option for Internet access. In the United States, WiMAX will be available to more than 100 million people by the end of 2008, according to Sprint, and there are significant international WiMAX deployments happening in Asia, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and South America. There are even some niche players, like Xanadoo in Texas and Wateen in Pakistan and KT Telecom in South Korea (using a related technology called WiBro), that already have live deployments in action.

But what impressed me the most at WiMAX World was the huge vendor ecosystem that has coalesced around WiMAX. There were more exhibitors (350) at WiMAX World 2007 than there were at LinuxWorld 2007 (200) last month in San Francisco. The leading players in the WiMAX movement have taken a very open, standards-based, interoperable approach to the technology, and the response has been widespread participation from industry heavyweights plus a plethora of startups with solutions to help make WiMAX work or make it better.

The WiMAX leaders

While many players large and small exist in the WiMAX ecosystem, there are several leaders you should know if you want to understand the progress of WiMAX and who is driving it:
  • Sprint - The most prominent name in WiMAX in the United States is Sprint because it will be the first big national carrier to come to market with a WiMAX product. Sprint has branded its product Xohm and is acting much more like an ISP and an IT company than a telecom carrier in its approach to bringing WiMAX to market.
  • Intel - The world's leading chip-maker was the first IT giant to put its weight behind WiMAX and has been an influential factor ever since, as a member of the WiMAX Forum. In mid-2008, Intel will start embedding dual WiMAX/Wi-Fi chips (codenamed "Echo Peak") into its Centrino laptops. Intel has come to believe that establishing WiMAX Internet access is the key to creating demand for low-cost computers in emerging markets throughout the world.
  • Motorola - Motorola is both building out the network infrastructure to run WiMAX and producing many of the end-user client products that connect to WiMAX networks, from handsets to WiMAX broadband modems to smartphones and potentially even new mobile Internet devices. Motorola is building Sprint's WiMAX network in Chicago.
  • Samsung -Like Motorola, Samsung wants to build both WiMAX networks and some end-user WiMAX devices. Samsung is building the Sprint networks in the northeast corridor of the United States, including Washington D.C, New York, and Boston, and has already built the South Korean network, which is based on the related WiBro technology and has been running since 2006.
  • Alcatel-Lucent - These venerable network specialists have been into WiMAX since early 2005, and they are building WiMAX networks for multiple carriers in Latin America and a number of other carriers sprinkled throughout the globe.
  • Clearwire - This upstart, founded by cellular pioneer Craig McCaw, is poised to become a key national WiMAX provider in the United States, with its WiMAX rollouts in 2008. Clearwire, which has gotten significant investments from Intel and Motorola, holds more wireless spectrum for WiMAX in the U.S. than anyone other than Sprint and has signed a WiMAX roaming agreement with Sprint so that users can traverse both networks. In 2008, Clearwire will likely start with small and mid-size cities, while Sprint will focus on the big metros.

The two types of WiMAX

It's important to understand that there are two types of WiMAX:

1. Fixed WiMAX This version of WiMAX is essentially the same as DSL or cable broadband Internet, except that there's a WiMAX modem to connect to your PC or router instead of a DSL or cable modem. Fixed WiMAX is sometimes referred to as 802.16d (or 802.16-2004) because that was the standard that originally defined it; however, it has since transcended that standard. The biggest advantage that Fixed WiMAX brings to the Internet landscape is that it is simpler, quicker, and more cost-effective to put up WiMAX towers and antennas (once you have the wireless frequency reserved) than it is to lay wire for DSL or cable lines. Thus, Fixed WiMAX has the potential to spread Internet access to a lot of new places that don't currently have affordable or effective broadband connections. 2. Mobile WiMAX This is sometimes referred to as 802.16e or 802.16e-2005 or just WiMAX "e." This is the latest version of the WiMAX standard, and it's the one that the vast majority of companies are currently focused on implementing. This version allows for roaming ("handoff") between WiMAX base stations and so it truly unleashes users for a mobile Internet experience. This is the standard that both Sprint and Clearwire are using for the WiMAX networks they are deploying in 2008. The other significant feature of 802.16e is that it is equally as effective for providing Fixed Wireless as 802.16d.

Is this the next stage?

As you've probably realized, Mobile 802.16e is the technology that has the potential to change the scope of the Internet. Sprint and Clearwire are planning to roll out 802.16e to provide both Fixed and Mobile WiMAX, enabling users to have Fixed WiMAX in their home or small business and to use Mobile WiMAX with a laptop, smartphone, or mobile Internet device when they are on the move -- all with one broadband account. Sprint Business will also be using the 802.16e deployments to offer mobile Internet to enterprises for their road warriors and Fixed WiMAX for their remote offices.

Thus, the primary benefit of WiMAX is to fill in the gaps of the Internet -- the gaps of coverage in rural and remote areas and developing countries where it has been economically unfeasible to bring inexpensive broadband, and the gaps in coverage that mobile users have to deal with when they are away from their office, home, or Wi-Fi hotspot. The gaps won't all be filled in 2008. It will take years for this build-out to happen, but we'll start to see some of the gaps closing next year.

A secondary benefit of WiMAX will be the ability to bring Internet connectivity to a lot more devices, including some that haven't even been conceived yet because of the stationary nature of today's Internet. Intel and others are already ramping up mass production of WiMAX chips so that they can be inexpensively embedded in lots of different devices and equipment, including cars, digital cameras, traffic lights, TVs, surveillance cameras, and medical equipment -- to cite just a few potential examples.

With lots of different devices connecting via WiMAX and the potential for roaming from fixed connections at work and home to mobile broadband on the move, Sprint has wisely decided to break out of a cellular model in pricing its WiMAX solution.

Although all of the details weren't released, during WiMAX World 2007, Sprint CTO Barry West stated that Sprint's WiMAX would be focused on affordability and meeting the varying needs of users. West said that there would not be contracts like the ones in the cellular business, but that there would be subscriptions in which the user would get cost savings with longer terms. There is also a widespread -- albeit unconfirmed -- expectation that this will include pay-as-you-go and prepaid options as well.

WiMAX is like a young athlete whose training has nearly come to an end and now it's time to step out on the field and compete with the big boys. WiMAX has a powerful ecosystem, key support from important players in the technology industry, and the potential to solve an important set of problems that have been elusive and difficult to resolve up until now.

Although WiMAX will clearly jump into the game in 2008, its success as catalyst for the next stage of the Internet will depend upon several factors:

  1. Will the Sprint and Clearwire deployments roll out on schedule? Will other small carriers roll out WiMAX quickly in local markets? Will the international deployments happen on time?
  2. Will Mobile WiMAX achieve average speeds of 2-4 Mbps and will the user experience be consistent and satisfying?
  3. Will any unforeseen technical challenges arise that will slow down the deployments or compromise the quality of the connections?

If WiMAX deploys on schedule and with the kind of mobility, performance, and affordability that vendors are promising, it will almost certainly unleash a new era of possibilities and innovation in communications and technology. There's a lot of optimism from key industry leaders that we are on the cusp of a major breakthrough, but WiMAX still has to prove it in the field in 2008.

Next week, we will delve into the standards-based technology that drives WiMAX and look at whether it truly has advantages over 3G cellular, which is gearing up to compete with WiMAX for mobile Internet access. In two weeks, we will wrap up this three-part series with a look at whether WiMAX can remain an open platform and avoid being hijacked by a few big vendors.

What kind of impact could WiMAX have in your organization? What kind of impact could it have on your personal Internet experience? Join the discussion.

For more on the vendors and gadgets from WiMAX World 2007, take a look at my photo gallery:

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

53 comments
TheGooch1
TheGooch1

Not everything as rosy as it first seems. Have there been studies on how the deployment of WiMax on the environment and human health? Are there any byproducts of the manufacture process that cause pollution? Where are the WiMax chips being made? Do the plants have unsafe working conditions, worker exploitation, etc? Btw, is the WiMax industry going to help the US job market? Or are they outsourcing the work to other countries, so that American workers once again get the short end of the stick? As good as the idea of broader, faster Internet access seems, I would like to see these kinds of questions answered.

ranjitraut
ranjitraut

WIMAX ( provided by Reliance in India ) is the worst kind of technology. It never worked and will never work in future. It gets affected by rains, clouds, thunderstorms, even a bird s*itting on the dish antennae. Here check these more reviews over here. http://broadbandforum.in/reliance-broadband/13538-reliance-wimax-launched-pune/3/ Customer back up and after sales service is worst than BSNL. I would suggest not to go for it. We had worst experience of life.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

DSL doesn't dial in.Everybody gets connected to the same DSL system without a dial up.To tell you the truth I do not think that there ever was supposed to be a dial up.I suppose that your IP address would make you unique in this digital wash.Your phone card would always have you connected to the Internet without dialing in.This WiMAX would be DSL and the cellphone system.Nothing new needed,so---

naxnxtzoyzjv
naxnxtzoyzjv

And none of you fucking morons have a CLUE as to what beaming all those waves all over the damn place will do to this society. You have iron in your blood- it is completely frazzled by wifi and electrical signals. People that live near power generators are guaranteed Leukemia- Is WIFI a secret eugenics campaign? If not, it should be- because it will be thinning out the herd of idiots that use it.

nacht
nacht

Sure, "there would not be contracts like the ones in the cellular business, but that there would be subscriptions in which the user would get cost savings with longer terms". You think being locked into a cellphone contract for 2 years is bad? Just wait! The _only_ reason companies are "championing" (love the positive spin on avarice here) these technologies is that the dollar-signs look to be never-ending. We won't even get into the privacy implications...

fartface
fartface

this is the perfect back-haul for RFID chips. RFID chip could easily be used in a true mobile environment. This will enable tagging of anything imaginable.

phlat
phlat

The only thing going for WiMAX is the licensed frequency requirement. If anyone or their dog could throw up a WiMAX accesspoint as with A/B/G on ISM the spectrum would be so saturated it would become useless.

allen
allen

Sprint has been hijacking their services for so long. Well as a long time victim of their services, which start out being what you need and then slowly almost invisibly they kill you over their constant plan restructures. Each time you make a simple addition or change to your service the marvelously inept customer service department personnel butcher the account so that adding one feature removes or changes your other features. Have you been asked very many times in each year to "UPDATE" your CONTRACT to add functionality to your service. Makes me wonder if it "start out that way" with WiMAX too. Then of course it will cost to disconnect from the service as well. Boy I sound like I have been burned!

JoneDoe
JoneDoe

Mobile WiMax is an "internationalized" version of WiBro(No, Mobile WiMax is a derivative of WiBro, not WiMax. Accordingly it is backward compatible with WiBro, not WiMax), which has been fully operational since 2006. This is the reason for Sprint' confidence in full operability of its Xohm network without major delays, as the technology is already proven, debugged, and fully operational. But the question is, is the market ready for technology? Korean experiences have shown that cell phone users saw no need for such high bandwidth, only notebook users did. But the sizing of notebook makes its use difficult in the bus or subway. Hence the market won't migrate to Mobile WiMax until the arrival of UMPCs or third gen iPhones that are capable of desktop level web-browsing.

harold
harold

Same old same old. It will be years before anyone not in a major city gets this. FIOS will be here before this will be. It would be great to have an alternative to the Comcast and Verizon, who are raping everyone on price and poor service. Sprint has other issues as well. Their cell business is dying quickly as their coverage is 3rd rate outside of major cities and is shrinking. Sprint dealers in suburb areas of New England are dying on the vine with poor coverage and returns. If that is any indication of how well they will handle WiMax...we are in trouble. That all said...it will be years before the suburbs get this option.

pkgnair
pkgnair

Mobile WiMAX is extreemely good.

lanbldr
lanbldr

This technology is already up and running (for almost a year now) in Muskegon County in Michigan. Pricing is said to be competitive with DSL, though speeds are less. But consider the options for those of us in rural areas where cable and DSL are unavailable: Dial-up and two-way satellite (Hughes, Blue something-or-other and Dish Network). Dial-up is maddeningly slow and satellite's very high latency (1 second+) and high cost ($70/month) are depressing. Wi-MAX will be a welcome change to us, warts and all.

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

I use it since more than 2 years. It works dramatically well (here in Western France). It's just a bit expensive because it's not the main carrier of my Internet carrier, and I use it on roaming, but its subscription cost (for permanent access) competes well with fixed DSL accesses, for just a little lower speed, not dramatic, but MUCH more economic and much faster than other mobile networks proposed by mobile phone companies (over UMTS or GPRS). This is clearly a strong improvement for the coverage of rural or periurban areas not well covered by DSL accesses and inaccessible to cable. For far rural areas, this is clearly the best solution, that deprecates completely the access offers through satellite+analog POTS lines (for the outgoing data), not suited for interactivity. It's true that the equipments were a bit expensive, I just hope that the start in US and the change of scale will reduce this cost and will allow better products.

s_q_u_i_r_k
s_q_u_i_r_k

you say its like dsl and cable but is it really going to be as reliable and fast as either?

GreyTech
GreyTech

Whether WiMAx or son or grandson of WiMax becomes the norm, within a very few years we will wonder how we ever coped without high speed wireless access to the internet in the first decade of this century. In the UK Ofcom will ponder for a while whether to vary licences from technology specific to technology neutral so releasing some spectrum for WiMax the other EU country's regulators will have similar reactions and perhaps we will get some EU wide co-operation eventually. However the detail eventually evolves, within four or five years, we will have easy wireless access from almost any device to any device via the internet and wireless links as a normal as a TV is in a western household today.

keldon85
keldon85

Hmm, well as a technology on its own it isn't that great! But once we begin to utilize it and combine it with other technologies and products its full potential will be unlocked. I don't care much about browsing google while on the bus, or watching YouTube videos while driving to work! But having sat nav systems report back via the Internet to give a report on traffic and guide you around the town to find shops and bargains is where this can really pick up.

dan
dan

Do equipment vendors promise (putting the money where their mouth is) that GSM-like voice conversation will be possible using there technology? Do they protect voice traffic against constant, heavy data transfers? I am a user of 3G and first phase HSDPA (1.8Mbps promissed) but the packet loss and delay is so much that voice conversations are not possible using Skype or other SIP applications. The revolution we all want happens only when WIMAX is capable of telephony applications. Thanks for the WIMAX-World brief, Dan.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

WiMAX does not run on top of the cellular network or DSL or anything else. It is a new infrastructure, built around IP from the ground up. That's why it has take several years for it to materialize. The only connection to cellular is that some of the new WiMAX antennas will get hung from cell towers, but only for convenience sake. The backhaul connections from WiMAX will involve existing Internet technologies like DS3 and T3, but there aren't many other connections to what's out there already.

paulm
paulm

Why don't you do some investigation before you put your mouth into gear????

catseverywhere
catseverywhere

Medical studies were done that showed cell phones are a huge risk for brain tumors. Since they were paid for by the industry, these studies were quashed. I have heard some of the scientists on the studies are trying to privately duplicate some of the work, so they can release the information to the public. I am firmly convinced all this GHz rf splattering all over the place is an environmental disaster of biblical proportion. What stinks is you all are doing this to me and my family and I have no recourse. This is no less part of a wider eugenics campaign, in my esteem. Just this morning I heard another report on the mass die-off of honey bees. We are utterly reliant on bees for most of our food. The report said no one has a clue why this is happening, but it appears something is "confusing" the bees, interfering with their ability to navigate. They simply fail to return home, no bodies are found. Cell phones? The growth of wireless rf appears to be directly proportional to the drop in bee populations. If I had the money I'd do a study on this, post haste. Now the following is pure speculation on my part, but I have not gotten a definitive medical explanation yet. My dad fell asleep behind the wheel back in 1977 and hit a tree. My jaw was smashed into three general pieces. (and a lot of shards) To put it back together three wires were strung through the bone, which were supposed to come out a year or two later. But the surgeon broke one off while trying to retrieve them, leaving a small, straight fragment of the wire embedded in the middle of the bone. (another complete wire was also left) This fragment lived in peace inside my jaw for around 25 years. Then about 4-5 years ago, suddenly it began to act as if it were infected. Since that time it slowly and perpetually drains out of a small hole on the front left side of my chin. No antibiotics touch it, and I've been on them all, and for far too long. Doctors are stymied, all they can say is it's a foreign body and my body is rejecting it. (it needs to be chopped out, but I don't have the ~$10,000 needed) But why now, after 25 years, all of a sudden like? Well, this started immediately after a slew of cell phone towers went up around here, one of which I can see on a hill out my window at the moment. This is a rural area, cell came rather late here. The dimension of this wire fragment is almost exactly 1/2 the average cell phone antenna's dimension. Coincidence? I think not. I think this thing is acting as a wave guide and my body's reaction is to try to toss it out. The area is numb, the fracture severed the nerve, but occasionally I feel a tweak emanating from the area, which is like a "hot" sensation. In any event, wifi is one more reason I believe mankind has irreversibly toasted itself and is about to go the way of the Dodo. In a forward to a children's book, prince William wrote he'd like to be reincarnated as a virus that would kill off humanity, so the fluffy critters could live in peace and harmony. Nice guy, eh? That's the way all the boys at the top think. Lastly, and I confirmed this with two guys that work on cell transmitters, those transmitters and antennas are capable of delivering up to 1,000 times the power needed to run a cell phone/wireless network. That's "overkill," not "overhead," and just maybe the emphasis is on "kill?" Adding to the commentary that prompted this reply: not only is our blood electromagnetic, all our brain and nerve functions are as well. Cell, wifi, and now wimax HAVE to interfere with our biology, which can't be good. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

n4aof
n4aof

Just add an aluminum foil coat and pants to the aluminum foil hat you are (obviously) already wearing!

erikmidtskogen
erikmidtskogen

Yes, Philipe, most developed nations other than the U.S. have already been enjoying anywhere, always-on, wireless broadband Internet for some time now on their Ericsson P-800's. But here in the U.S., we are so ignorant of what is happening elsewhere in the world that we don't know this. We suffer in silence with our mostly rather slow, sub-par, and ridiculously overpriced data service and it never even occurs to us to check to see if someone somewhere else has come up with something better. And our cell phone service is absolutely abysmal in most areas, too. I actually had to explain to my Norwegian cousin what "getting dropped" meant, because the idea that your cell phone would disconnect the call while walking down the street in an urban area was a completely new concept to him. We're Americans you know, and so we know everything better than everyone else in the world--just like when Iraq was making weapons of mass destruction. Don't try to tell us that the unfettered free market sometimes fails to provide the optimal set of goods and services to the public without the help of some central coordinating authority (perhaps even one run by the *gasp* government [*p-tooy*]). Ignore observed reality when it disagrees with ideology. Reality is just an illusion. And besides, even if it's not, the outcome achieved does not matter, just so long as you have upheld your principles in the face of all countervailing evidence.

peacheym
peacheym

I have also been using fixed WiMAX for over a year in Raleigh, NC, US through Clearwire. It is less expensive here than both cable and DSL. It has worked flawlessly, once it was set up, I've never given it another thought.

franco.pinasco
franco.pinasco

Here in Brussels WiMax is oriented more towards home consumers rather than business. The problem I see is not security but coverage. I live in a ground floor and hardly get any signal, so WiMax is not an option for my internet access. Prices are quite good and speed is slightly less that standard ADSL but for a fixed access I still think ADSL is better (fixed phones are there anyway). I think WiMax will be better for mobile / roaming users who are in the coverage area.

app
app

...Of course, putting all of my business critical communication and mobile business access to my servers "eggs" into this one communication "basket" will be perfectly safe and unhackable right? (not that the internet is today by any means) New standards generally mean new ways those ingenious hackers can find and exploit information. I would need some serious reassurance on security issues before my business jumps onto this or any other "revolutionary" technology. Since you have been using this (or something like this) in France for a while Phillippe, What have you heard about security?

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

Take back what you said about YouTube. It rocks ( except for the practice of black bagging channels ).

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

I think that this will be a massive progress, notably in countries with very extended rural areas like US or Canada or Brasil or Australia (or even some countries of Europe and for the coverage of archipelagos) This solution will also be suitable for many countries in development (Africa, most of Asia) where the infrastructure construction of fixed networks is far too expensive, and the access points are very inequally distributed over the territory. So this technology interests the world. It bridges all these areas currently not well connected. It really puts an end to analog POTS modems that are still used in those areas, and offers a cheaper and faster alternative to the costly data accesses by mobile phone networks, not really designed for this purpose, or with costly wrong designs like UMTS. The performance of WiMax is very close to ADSL (the bandwidth is theoretically more restricted, but is not reduced so much with the distance to the access point, so rapidly WiMax becomes faster than ADSL!) So that's a very competitive alternative offer, even for accesses from home (where the performance can be improved by installing a fixed outdoor antenna). The current question about WiMax competing for roaming and mobility is still not there: the telecommunication regulators have still protected the market of major mobile phone networks so that they can continue to sell their accesses by their GPRS and UMTS costly accesses (for this, they have apparently designed the signals so that mobility is still not an option in WiMax, which is currently deployed as a nearly fixed access, just wireless like WiFi) So consider WiMax first as an opportunity for existing fixed Internet providers, to extend their coverage to inacessible customers. When I see the way it is being deployed in France, it has been done in priority within rural areas, using signal restrictions limiting its use for roaming. So don't think for now to WiMax in your car or in the bus while going to work. When this will happen, get sure that public transportation services will have their roaming own Internet accesses sold separately from other fixed accesses, and the existing mobile phone networks will pressure a lot before someone gets into their protected market to compete their GPRS and UMTS offers, for which they are still paying costly licenses to the national regulators (a huge price they would have not paid if the authorities had not guaranteed them some exclusive market limiting the competition to just a few allowed licences for mobility)! So don't mix the concept of mobility with the other concept of roaming (from one network to another) and the concept of wireless accesses (which is not always designed for supporting mobility which has much stronger technical requirements). Don't mix it with portability: that's a feature now very well supported by WiMAX and that should become true for digital broadcast TV and radio, but NOT by WiFi (due to severe limitations in the radioelectric profile of the 802.11 band, shared also by Bluetooth and other appliances used at home or in fixed environments, but not very sell suited to cover public areas). WiMAX is infact a far improvement to WiFi/Bluetooth, but its deployment is not as liberal as WiFi/Bluetooth as it requires a prior licence from the national regulator, due to its coverage area. As a WiMAX network is a shared access over a public domain of radiofrequencies, using a restricted band, not a lot of licenses can be offered to providers, this means that WiMAX will not really compete to WiFi in terms of costs supported by customers, although it has similar performances (if you're static, not mobile). The main area where WiMAX will succeed immediately is as a well-suited alternative to ADSL, for extending the coverage of the territory far from the urban areas. I'm not sure that mobility will be supported soon by WiMAX networks, except in countries or rural areas where UMTS (or other faster technologies than GPRS) has not been deployed by mobile phone networks.

stux
stux

From what little I've read it seems WiMax uses some form of scheduling algorithm to transfer packets (similar to the way T1 lines and IBM Token ring networks schedule packets). This is in significant contrast to Wifi and Ethernet in general where devices compete for transmission time and high traffic volumes cause heavy packet loss. That alone, I believe, could provide better reliability in real world deployments. Beyond that, I just hope that coverage is robust enough to handle a potentially huge amount of customers switching broadband services. After reading this article, I, for one, am excited with the potential this technology could deliver. If it comes to our city in the near future I would likely leave our apt complex's crappy internet in a heartbeat.

jdawson
jdawson

am using clearwire in several locations that do not have dsl or cable available. would love to have the mobile usage model for myself. real estate is a clear market with large potential for use. also when you are in a large growth area and a heavy retail space that the conventional carriers have not planned for the huge growth of internet usage it is sometimes the only option for someone who needs to work a better than a snails pace(ie dialup). have questions about ipsec and port passthru for some applications that i have not been able to get answers for from clearwire.

LegalAlien
LegalAlien

It's interesting that WiMAX is often presented as an alternative to current cell phone technologies. The same thing happened when Wi-Fi first emerged. For me, the most exciting thing about Wi-Fi and WiMAX is the potential for cost-free, high speed data transfer while roaming. Everything else is subject to data transfer charges, whereas these technologies are not -- at least in the areas I am familiar with. This draws a distinct line between Wi-Fi/WiMAX and cellular technologies, with the former being extensions of ISP-type services, and the latter remaining firmly in their cell phone provider slot. I, for one, am whole-heartedly looking forward to WiMAX. I just hope it resolves some of the bottleneck and packet loss issues that currently affect Wi-Fi.

rrobinson
rrobinson

In reality they all route through already overloaded major hubs. There are alot of upgrading that needs to be done long before 'faster first hop' scenerios are worth investing in. I think it will be good for areas that cannot receive dsl/cable but will it roll out where it's needed most? Probably not. Interesting? Yes. Exciting? No.

puertorican_mut
puertorican_mut

This wimax system seems interesting. From what I have gathered from reading is that it is built on its own system and that it can have uploads from DSL speed to T3. My guess that this speed would be dedicated to the server which you connect since these to are mentioned. For the home user who uses a desktop I don't believe that this would be useful but for those that use laptops or are in the work or universities this would be a revolution since the wireless capabilities can be bogged down by the users already on the network infrastructure. Which brings a question to mind would having more than one user on this connection bog down the speed to which one is connected to it. for example 300 users or more.

Mohammad Oweis
Mohammad Oweis

But what if one of the end-users in the company used one of the company Laptops to connect to the internet through WiMAX bypassing the corporate firewall and WebFilter, this will put the corporate network in risk. There should be something to prevent users from connecting to WiMAX from corporate network.

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

The security of WiMAX accesses is exactly the similar to the security of WiFi, except that this is not an option in WiMAX (so you need to configure it in order to be able to connect: this is not the case with many WiFi and Bluetooth devices, where the configuration is minimal or not even needed). Once connected and authenticated through a secure channel to the WiMAX network, you are isolated from other WiMAX users that don't use the same data channel as you, so for your applications, it's in fact safer than WiFi, or even your home network (which is not so much protected, except through physical separation that it's up to you to build separately) WiMAX is already deployed in many areas worldwide, either experimentally or commercially, and we've still not heard any major security issue like those affecting WiFi networks or even fixed networks. Now there remains the global security of Internet. Whever it is a WiMAX, or DSL or cable or POTS or ISDN or UMTS or GPRS access does not change anything: it's the same Internet with the same dangers, so for building your own private network by using Internet as the interconnection bridge, you need the same thing: VPNs... But this won't prevent security concerns when browsing over random sites or if you open your access bridge using a misconfigured router just because it's more convenient for you to browse the web without applying strit security against any kind of data coming from the Internet from unauthenticated and unidentifiable sources. So indenpendantly of the access technology, you'll still get spam in your internet mail box, you'll still be exposed to malicious web sites, and all the preventive safety measures still apply for browsing the web from any location and through any access technology: for this you need good practices, security updates for your softwares, security suites installed in your PC (firewall, antivirus, antispyware...) if it is configured to browse the web (it is preconfigured for allowing that if you use a router, and most DSL or cable or WiFi or WiMax accesses come with a suitable router that does not require lot of specific configuration to use them on your PC). But if you want to avoid these concerns, then don't use WiMax for connecting to the Internet (but what will then be your usage, at home, of a WiMAX network? in the enterprise, at least, there will be offers to install VPNs without any possible freely accessible browsing to the Internet, and the VPN provider will provide you a VPN with a very strong protection configuration even if it is internally linked through the Internet (the provider may provide you a proxying gateway filtering the internet access for your enterprise) If such security still concerns you, then abandon your fixed phone and your mobile phone: they internally use a shared network aaccessible to many uncontrolled third-parties, though the virtual network they create on top of this shared medium is realy well secured.

n4aof
n4aof

Do you really think that these companies are going to spend the money to install and maintain a massive (and very expensive) infrastructure in rural areas where they would lose money for every tower? Keep in mind that WiMax would be rolled out by the same companies that are already not serving those same rural areas for exactly the same business reasons. WiMax will roll out in the high density urban areas where they can get more customers per square mile and where they have businesses and 'professionals' that will pay for the privilege of jumping onto the Next-New-Thing. WiMax would work far better in rural areas than in urban areas because the hubs would not be as overloaded -- but it won't be available in those rural areas -- at least not from the 'National' carriers. Do you want to see what WiMax coverage will look like in 2010? Just go to any of the major cellular provider websites (such as Sprint) and look at the coverage map for their high speed data service today. The bottom line of technology deployment is the bottom line of the business deploying the technology. We keep seeing new technologies being developed that CLAIM they will solve the connectivity gap in rural areas, but none of those services actually get deployed in rural areas simply because there is no profit in deploying a multi-million dollar infrastructure into an area where you can only get about 10-30 customers per square mile.

seanwal111111
seanwal111111

I currently use fixed WiMax for my internet connection at home. I'm four miles away from the transmitter, in a rural area. I'm very, very happy with the quality of the service. The company that is providing the service will be introducing mobile WiMax next year. This company seems to be primarily interested in the mobile WiMax as a means to capture phone customers. The main marketing notion is a more versatile phone device, as opposed to a more-connected laptop. If they were to ask me to upgrade from fixed WiMax to mobile WiMax for my computer, I'd probably turn it down, because I can't imagine what I'd need it for.

ericdumois
ericdumois

Once again, the geniuses in the field have created a technological wonder. In order to reach its full potential, business cases will need to be created and fine tuned. Once we can fully capitalize on this technology (financially), we will see it flourish. I for one am busily working on one.

Rageneau
Rageneau

What is rural to one may not be rural to the people living there. Salem, Missouri, the County Seat for Dent County is home to about seven thousand citizens. They consider those living outside of town as rural. While Salem has access to DSL and Cable TV, if you go a mile outside of town and the really rural residents rely on dial up. In Missouri, most phone service inside and outside of small towns are provided by small unknown phone companies who can charge customers 21 cents to make an interstate call to a town just down the road. In most cases, only two companies offer cell phone service and it only works when you happen to be in town or next to a major highway. These telecom companies use the feel free to charge what you want business model since there is little competition. Most rural residents have resigned themselves to purchasing calling cards. Many that live in rural areas (to me, most of Missouri is rural) have no access to the Internet except through dial up where they can pay $19 to $21 a month. Free weekends and nights packages for cell phones are of little use to rural customers. Many purchase ?Go? phones from Walmart. And these can only be used where there is service. Time purchased on Go phones expire if unused. Most in the rural areas cannot take advantage of the WiFi or VOIP. Of course, they can sign up for Satellite Internet connections, but this can be a very costly option. While WiMAX may offer a change and a chance, until it reaches all America at an affordable price, there will be a large segment of the public under served and over charged.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

It may have technical limitations matching those of cable & DSL, but it will represent the magical 3rd competitor that the marketplace needs to enforce dicipline on all players. As it is now, most markets have one, or two players if they are lucky. Now there will be two or three. Once Wimax becomes widely deployed, look for ISPs to start upgrading their systems and offering cheaper rates to fend off customer defection. "Net Neutrality" will become a non-issue once there are many players in the field.

nomade1999
nomade1999

... you are certainly right rrobinson. I am sure that place that really need it wont get it or it will be not viable to install. Can this new wireless can go thru mountains? and how far can it go?? I believe we better off trying to optimize and/or develop a new satellite system with greater speed and bandwidth which could then be access Planet wide instead..

MikeGall
MikeGall

I got 6Mbps cable for ~50 CAD. At work I have redundant T3. Either way, if I hit a software download site, I typically get 300KB/s, I've opened up multiple simultaneous connections before, and still get 300KB each, so I suspect the server or ISP is throttling the single connection speed. Either way, I'm already as fast as I can go (or that they will let me ;).

nmeyer
nmeyer

WiMAX will fill another. This is not a technology killer - more of a filler.

jflakdj
jflakdj

Yes, it sounds great, but does that mean the death of DSL and Dial-up. My present computer is a laptop and comes with Wireless and wired, and a 56K modem. Does that mean we can expect to see laptops being solde with Wireless, Ethernet-wired and WiMax and bluetooth? Many printers and cell phones run on these too.

nmeyer
nmeyer

Packet loss from RF interference is still a fact - no technology can prevent packet loss, vendors having access to useful (licensed) spectrum is still an issue -- for the US, the radiation inverse square law still applies (signal strength decreases over transmit distance) so building or leasing towers to get to the customer is in any WiMAX provider's future. ROI still applies for installations - if nobody can find a cost effective way to service a small number of users in a rural area - WiMAX providers have the same issue (perhaps their costs are a bit better). The back end infrastructure is still terrestrial - with all of the bottlenecks. WiMAX has to compete against a fairly well distributed 3G cellular network - and in areas where wire line is available- any newcomer will have to beat literally entrenched competitors... WiMAX is cool and interesting but is has a lot of serious challenges ahead of it.

guy.goiran
guy.goiran

I am highly interested by the encryption algorithms and protocols and technologies actually available and embedded on PC's and smart phones with Wimax capabilities. ggo78

cadman
cadman

There are many fine folks in Alaska that are in rural settings that don't get to enjoy the benefits of broadband. Those of us that do (not including yours truly) are paying around $30/Gb. Can we hear our wallets say 'OUCH'. We to are stuck in a monopoly. There have been promises made and broken for a second ISP. If WiMAX is as good as people are saying, then lets hope the big players come to the rural settings of USA, that includes Alaska and Hawaii.

SD ITman
SD ITman

If you want to talk about rural, let's talk South Dakota. The population of the entire state of South Dakota is less than most states larger cities (782,000). We have typically no real choices in land line carriers or cell carriers. High speed internet to us, in the rural areas, means a satellite dish and unbelievably high prices for access. If WiMAX can free us from the monopolies that we currently have to support than I say it's time to uncork the bubbly!

ExcitingMike
ExcitingMike

I live in rural Virginia and although I am only 15min. from the city limits of a fairly large city and two major defense contractors have huge facilities on my road(w/high speed lines of course), Verizon and and the local cable company will not come back into the hills of my home owner's assoc. It is cost prohibitive for them, at least that's what they tell me. BPL(Broadband Over PowerLines) was promised by our electric co-op almost 4yrs ago....still waiting. There's about 100 lot owners in my division, about 90% of the would subscribe to high speed if it were offered(and they would probably switch their dish TV systems to cable too) The only alternative to dial-up out here in the mountains is WildBlue(HughesNet), cell phone service is very spotty. Right off the highway is a campground my friends run, Verizon or the local cable company would not offer service, just 1/3rd mile off the road! So they use WildBlue(so all their campers have free wireless access). There are dozens of counties like ours in Virginia(13K people, some more some less) which would benefit from WiMax. I hope it gets here before BPL does.

akita96th
akita96th

Well I for one believe that verizon, sprint ,AT&T and a few others will just bide there time until they can swoop in grease lots of politicians and local goverments and take this new technology over and continue gouging the public like they are doing now...technology new or old is always manipulated to be a cash cow for a select few and the rest of us has to kiss their butts for service or lack of..Either way Ill reserve my overal judgement until I see how the goverment knuckles under to these robber barons ...

brian.mills
brian.mills

Your description of rural Missouri sounds just like my in-laws. For them, calling anyone outside of their little farming area is long distance, so they use calling cards, because you can forget about cell coverage within 3 miles of their house. Their phone provider finally expanded DSL coverage to their area a few months ago, so they were finally able to get rid of dial-up, which never seemed to operate at even slower speeds than even dial-up should. I'm not sure how much they pay for internet, but I'm pretty sure it's about the same as my faster cable connection. If WiMax becomes available to them from a provider other than their extortionist telco co-op, they might finally be able to get fast internet at a decent price.

inertman
inertman

can it go thru mountains???! tell me what does! w/ the exception of the eisenhower tunnel in colorado, where there is cell service, tell me anything that does 'go thru mountains' w/o hardware. i lived in those mountains, vail, copper mountain, etc., for a very long time and continue to visit. i get the cdma/3g service just fine. so if they roll it out there, it will work i suspect. in my home, qwest has decided to not provide dsl making the only wired option cable. so i use 3g athome. it would be nice to have another option.

Shawn Pickett
Shawn Pickett

I live in a very rural area. A couple of years ago, a company called Omnicity offered in our area, to install a wireless modem that got it's internet from a tower near the center of the county. The basic plan, with leasing the modem, comes to less than $50 a month, which was cheaper than the $29.99 (if I remember correctly) for the dial up + the $50 a month we were paying for a second phone line to use the internet and get calls at the same time. It's been great, a tad slower than dsl or cable, it's still fine for our surfing needs. I'm sure that we aren't the only rural area that this company, or others, tapped the market for high speed internet in. On the second question, as a rule of thumb, the shorter the antenna, the higher the frequency of the signal. Based on the length of the antenna's in the pictures I've seen (and on the modem I'm using) the frequency is in the GHz range. Which means line of sight, or more to the point, it won't go through mountains. However, if you were to put the antenna on top of a mountain, you should be able to get outstanding coverage.

Editor's Picks