5. USES FOR WIMAX
WiMAX is a wireless metropolitan area network (MAN) technology that can connect IEEE 802.11 (Wi-Fi) hotspots with each other and to other parts of the Internet and provide a wireless alternative to cable and DSL for last mile (last km) broadband access. IEEE 802.16 provides up to 50 km (31 miles) of linear service area range and allows connectivity between users without a direct line of sight. Note that this should not be taken to mean that users 50 km (31 miles) away without line of sight will have connectivity. Practical limits on real world tests seem to be around “3 to 5 miles” (5 to 8 kilometers). The technology has been claimed to provide shared data rates up to 70 Mbit/s, which, according to WiMAX proponents, is enough bandwidth to simultaneously support more than 60 businesses with T1-type connectivity and well over a thousand homes at 1Mbit/s DSL-level connectivity. Real world tests, however, show practical maximum data rates between 500kbit/s and 2 Mbit/s, depending on conditions at a given site.
It is also anticipated that WiMAX will allow interpenetration for broadband service provision of VoIP, video, and Internet access—simultaneously. Most cable and traditional telephone companies are closely examining or actively trial-testing the potential of WiMAX for “last mile” connectivity. This should result in better price points for both home and business customers as competition results from the elimination of the “captive” customer bases both telephone and cable networks traditionally enjoyed. Even in areas without preexisting physical cable or telephone networks, WiMAX could allow access between anyone within range of each other. Home units the size of a paperback book that provide both phone and network connection points are already available and easy to install.
There is also interesting potential for interoperability of WiMAX with legacy cellular networks. WiMAX antennas can “share” a cell tower without compromising the function of cellular arrays already in place. Companies that already lease cell sites in widespread service areas have a unique opportunity to diversify, and often already have the necessary spectrum available to them (i.e. they own the licenses for radio frequencies important to increased speed and/or range of a WiMAX connection). WiMAX antennae may be even connected to an Internet backbone via either a light fiber optics cable or a directional microwave link. Some cellular companies are evaluating WiMAX as a means of increasing bandwidth for a variety of data-intensive applications. In line with these possible applications is the technology’s ability to serve as a very high bandwidth “backhaul” for Internet or cellular phone traffic from remote areas back to a backbone. Although the cost-effectiveness of WiMAX in a remote application will be higher, it is definitely not limited to such applications, and may in fact be an answer to expensive urban deployments of T1 backhauls as well. Given developing countries’ (such as in Africa) limited wired infrastructure, the costs to install a WiMAX station in conjunction with an existing cellular tower or even as a solitary hub will be diminutive in comparison to developing a wired solution. The wide, flat expanses and low population density of such an area lends itself well to WiMAX and its current diametrical range of 30 miles. For countries that have skipped wired infrastructure as a result of inhibitive costs and unsympathetic geography, WiMAX can enhance wireless infrastructure in an inexpensive, decentralized, deployment-friendly and effective manner.
Another application under consideration is gaming. Sony and Microsoft are closely considering the addition of WiMAX as a feature in their next generation game console. This will allow gamers to create ad hoc networks with other players. This may prove to be one of the “killer apps” driving WiMAX adoption: WiFi-like functionality with vastly improved range and greatly reduced network latency and the capability to create ad hoc mesh networks.
Think about how you access the 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.
- WiFi access – In your home, you may have set up a WiFi router that lets you surf the Web while you lounge with your laptop. On the 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, or 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 small WiFi hotspots
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.
6. WHAT CAN WIMAX DO?
WiMAX operates on the same general principles as WiFi — it sends data from one computer to another via radio signals. A computer (either a desktop or a laptop) equipped with WiMAX would receive data from the WiMAX transmitting station, probably using encrypted data keys to prevent unauthorized users from stealing access.
The fastest WiFi connection can transmit up to 54 megabits per second under optimal conditions. WiMAX should be able to handle up to 70 megabits per second. Even once that 70 megabits is split up between several dozen businesses or a few hundred home users, it will provide at least the equivalent of cable-modem transfer rates to each user.
The biggest difference isn’t speed; it’s distance. WiMAX outdistances WiFi by miles. WiFi’s range is about 100 feet (30 m). WiMAX will blanket a radius of 30 miles (50 km) with wireless access. The increased range is due to the frequencies used and the power of the transmitter. Of course, at that distance, terrain, weather and large buildings will act to reduce the maximum range in some circumstances, but the potential is there to cover huge tracts of land.
7. IEEE 802.16 SPECIFICATIONS
- Range – 30-mile (50-km) radius from base station
- Speed – 70 megabits per second
- Line-of-sight not needed between user and base station
- Frequency bands – 2 to 11 GHz and 10 to 66 GHz (licensed and unlicensed bands)
8. WIMAX COULD BOOST GOVERNMENT SECURITY
In an emergency, communication is crucial for government officials as they try to determine the cause of the problem, find out who may be injured and coordinate rescue efforts or cleanup operations. A gas-line explosion or terrorist attack could sever the cables that connect leaders and officials with their vital information networks.
WiMAX could be used to set up a back-up (or even primary) communications system that would be difficult to destroy with a single, pinpoint attack. A cluster of WiMAX transmitters would be set up in range of a key command center but as far from each other as possible. Each transmitter would be in a bunker hardened against bombs and other attacks. No single attack could destroy all of the transmitters, so the officials in the command center would remain in communication at all timesHere’s what would happen if you got WiMAX. An Internet service provider sets up a WiMAX base station 10 miles from your home. You would buy a WiMAX-enabled computer (some of them should be on store shelves in 2005) or upgrade your old computer to add WiMAX capability. You would
receive a special encryption code that would give you access to the base station. The base station would beam data from the Internet to your computer (at speeds potentially higher than today’s cable modems), for which you would pay the provider a monthly fee. The cost for this service could be much lower than current high-speed Internet-subscription fees because the provider never had to run cables.
Network scale: The smallest-scale network is a personal area network (PAN). A PAN allows devices to communicate with each other over short distances. Bluetooth is the best example of a PAN.
The next step up is a local area network (LAN). A LAN allows devices to share information, but is limited to a fairly small central area, such as a company’s headquarters, a coffee shop or your house. Many LANs use WiFi to connect the network wirelessly.
WiMAX is the wireless solution for the next step up in scale, the metropolitan area network (MAN). A MAN allows areas the size of cities to be connected. If you have a home network, things wouldn’t change much. The WiMAX base station would send data to a WiMAX-enabled router, which would then send the data to the different computers on your network. You could even combine WiFi with WiMAX by having the router send the data to the computers via WiFi.
WiMAX doesn’t just pose a threat to providers of DSL and cable-modem service. The WiMAX protocol is designed to accommodate several different methods of data transmission, one of which is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). VoIP allows people to make local, long-distance and even international calls through a broadband Internet connection, bypassing phone companies entirely. If WiMAX-compatible computers become very common, the use of VoIP could increase dramatically. Almost anyone with a laptop could make VoIP calls.
9. TECHNICAL ADVANTAGES
WiMax does not conflict with WiFi but actually complements it.
WiMAX is a wireless metropolitan area network (MAN) technology that will connect 802.11(WiFi) hotspots to the Internet and provide a wireless extension to cable and DSL for last mile (last km) broadband access. 802.16 provides up to 50 km (31 miles) of linear service area range andallows users connectivity without a direct line of sight to a base station. The technology also provides shared data rates up to 70 Mbit/s, which, according to WiMax proponents, is enough bandwidth to simultaneously support more than 60 businesses with T1-type connectivity and hundreds of homes at DSL-type connectivity.
An important aspect of the 802.16 is that it defines a MAC layer that supports multiple physical layer (PHY) specifications. This is crucial to allow equipment makers to differentiate their offerings.
The WiMAX forum, backed by industry leaders, helps the widespread adoption of broadband wireless access by establishing a brand forth technology. Initially, WiMAX will bridge the digital divide, the scope of WiMAX deployment will broaden to cover markets where the low POTS penetration, high DSL unbundling costs, or poor copper quality have acted as a brake on extensive high-speed Internet and voice over broadband. WiMAX will reach its peak by making Portable Internet a reality. When WiMAX chipsets are integrated into laptops and other portable devices, it will provide high-speed data services on the move, extending today’s limited coverage of public WLAN to metropolitan areas. Integrated into new generation networks with seamless roaming between various accesses, it will enable endorsers to enjoy an “Always Best Connected” experience. The combination of these capabilities makes WiMAX attractive for a wide diversity of people: fixed operators, mobile operators and wireless ISPs, but also for many vertical markets and local authorities.
CPE: Customer Premise Equipment
DSL: Digital Subscriber Line
FDD: Frequency Division Duplex
MAC: Media Access Control
OFDMA: Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex Access
PLC: Power Line Communications
POTS: Plain Ordinary Telephone System
STC: Space Time Coding
TDD: Time Division Duplex
WLAN: Wireless Local Area Network
WLL: Wireless Local Loop
.WiMAX: The Critical Wireless Standard, Blueprint WiFi Report, October 2003
.WiMAX/802.16 and 802.20, ABI Research, Q4 2003 Last Mile Wireless High Speed Market, Skylight Research, March 2004
.Providing Always-on Broadband Access to Underserved Areas, Alcatel Telecommunication Review (p. 127-132), Q4 2003
.WiMAX forum web site: www.wimaxforum.org
. IEEE SPECTRUM.
Submitted by L.GURU KUMAR and B.SRAVAN KUMAR
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