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Still looking for WiMax

The promise of WiMax is to transform wirless access across the country, making municipal wireless systems much more powerful and ubiquitous. But, progress has been slow. The US is still an insignificant WiMax market.
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor on

The promise of WiMax is to transform wirless access across the country, making municipal wireless systems much more powerful and ubiquitous. But, progress has been slow. The US is still an insignificant WiMax market, Washington Technology reports.

“There has been a little bit of a cloud over the market,” because of the lack of certified products, said Carlton O’Neal, vice president of marketing for Alvarion Inc. of Mountain View, Calif. “The market has been relatively small.”

The U.S. market represents a chicken-and-egg dilemma for WiMax: WiMax is not being used here because standards-based equipment is not built for frequencies licensed in this country, and manufacturers are not making equipment for those frequencies because there is no demand for it.

Speaking at a industry conference, O'Neal outlined what it will take for widespread takeup of WiMax:
  • Development of standards with certified interoperable products.
  • Availability of licensed spectrum
  • Availability of self-installing, self-configuring customer premise equipment.
More than 90 percent of WiMax deployments today have been in the 3.5 GHz frequency band. But in the US that band is reserved for government and military, so the country is waiting for vendors to develop WiMax products in the 2.3 and 2.5 GHz bands. But those products are slow in coming.
For the present, WiMax it is a fixed, outdoor broadband delivery technology, and its primary uses probably will be for backhauling other wireless networks, replacing cable in campus environments and delivering broadband to rural areas. But the 802.16e mobile standard could broaden the WiMax scope, bringing it into competition with WiFi for mobile networking.

Despite these overlaps, WiMax advocates see it as complementing WiFi technology rather than competing with it. They see WiFi dominating the short range, interior market and WiMax providing the big pipes and backhaul.

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