While Wi-Fi has emerged as a successful technology in the last 5 years, many users have been limited by a short range of 150 feet and its low bandwidth, in comparison to hard-line internet connections. Recently, the IEEE has come up with a new standard, 802.16, now known popularly as WiMAX (essentially super-charged Wi-Fi). Not only does it promise higher data transfer rates (75 Mbps, compared to 2Mbps for WiFi) but most impressively (for end-users), a WiMAX connection can be established at distances of about 30 miles, although practical applications will begin in the 3-5 mile range. Technology and standards for the technology is scheduled for initial deployment in mid-to-late 2005.
So, what’s the rush? The technology, based on IEEE 802.16, isn’t even here yet, so the current environment is one in which a host of companies are scrambling to become the first to emerge as the main provider and define the standard to which the rest of the companies must conform. To that end, Intel has emerged as one of the leaders, but no less than 150 other technology partners are working together to make this new technology a reality, which is a clear signal that they view the payoffs from the WiMAX technology applications will be huge.
What does that mean to the average end-user? A lot. It’s becoming clear that WiMAX is quickly emerging as the future of broadband connectivity with “across-the-board” applications for end-users. The technology appears to be affordable, and the ability alone to bring high-speed Internet to areas not currently wired for high-speed is huge. For those already with high-speed, businesses and individuals alike, WiMAX will offer a low cost broadband wireless roaming solution. And with a 10 mile base-station radius potential, they mean ‘r-o-a-m-i-n-g’!
In theory, WiMAX will be available to you soon. Initial deployments are scheduled to begin in 2005, while full WiMAX capabilities will become common market technology by 2006. Considering the way Wi-Fi has taken off as a desireable alternative to even faster hard-line, or “fixed” alternatives, it’s hard to imagine how WiMAX, will NOT have a huge impact upon the personal and business technology of broadband networking.