Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, or WiMax, is a new technology created in 2001 as a label for the wireless broadband standard IEEE 802.16. WiMax allows for cheaper wireless Internet access at a greatly increased distance. The current applications of Wi-Fi (a form of wireless network) need many hubs to operate within
a business or campus setting, transferring data at no more than a hundred feet and often less. WiMax, on the other hand, promises to transmit data at only slightly slower speeds over distances of miles, possibly tens of miles in the future. This technology can be used with either fixed or mobile protocols; the fixed WiMax supports only point-to-point Internet access, while mobile WiMax supports access from mobile handheld devices. The technology is seen as a “last mile” connector, or the step where Internet service providers connect their clients to the Web. This last mile is often the most expensive for providers, who need to set up multiple wireless hubs or run broadband cables branching from house to house. It is in this step that WiMax saves both time and cost.
NOT QUITE READY FOR PRIMETIME
WiMax has been marketed as the next revolutionary technology in Internet access, and it is expected to be developed and sold by many providers by 2009, but there are steps left to complete before the WiMax market is fully running. The demand for the new technology is currently low, and many people prefer their Wi-Fi connections, already well established. It remains to be seen if—when the longer-reaching service is established—customers will be willing to switch. Products such as laptops and smart-phones will need to begin including WiMax technology within their applications for the market to become established, and currently there is little incentive for producers to do so. Although future providers hope to cover entire cities with a few well-placed hubs, there is simply no WiMax structure yet in place.
Several companies, however, have invested heavily in the wireless technology. In 2007, Sprint and Clearwire formally declared their intent to provide WiMax throughout America, but the agreement dissolved when Sprint's investors forced the CEO to resign and the WiMax initiative was deemed in need of further analysis. In May of 2008, however, Sprint and Clearwire resolved their problems and went forward in the creation of a combined WiMax company. Other companies will also play a large part in the spread of WiMax, including cable companies Time Warner and Comcast, hardware maker Intel, and Google.
However, current tests of WiMax technology have not been fully promising. The 2009 deadline will probably not be met because it takes years to set up a complete WiMax system, and even then there are significant problems. Some reports have WiMax broadcasts reaching only a mile or two, with the transmission quality fading as users progressed further indoors and into offices to use the connection. In some cases there is also a lag in data transference, a delay that may make many Internet services difficult to use, especially audio components like voice over internet protocol (VoIP).
Dix, John. “WiMax Gains Full Head of Steam.” NetworkWorld, 2008. Available from: http://www.networkworld.com/columnists/2006/101606edit.html?zb&rc=wireless_wimax.
Gardiner, Bryan. “Australian Company Calls WiMax a Disaster.” Wired. Wired Blog Center, 2008.
Reed, Brad. “Will WiMax Impact Your Business This Year?”InfoWorld, 2008. Available from: http://www.infoworld.com/article/08/06/24/Will_WiMax_impact_your_business_this_year_1.html.
Worthen, Ben. “WiMax: If You Build It, Will Businesses Come?” Wall Street Journal, 2008. Available from: http://blogs.wsj.com/biztech/2008/05/07/wimax-if-you-build-it-will-businesses-come/.