The introduction of the Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) certification for licensed and licensed-exempt microwave equipment will expand the broadband wireless market through decreased costs and will improve enterprise and service-provider awareness.
META Trend: User access diversity will increase as mobile users migrate from dial-up to broadband, wireless LAN hot spots, and ad hoc wired connections (e.g., hotel Ethernet) during 2003/04, as well as 2.5G/3G cellular data services (Europe and Asia 2004, US 2005/06). User authentication and SSL VPN adoption will accelerate, becoming the dominant application-based remote access mechanism by 2005, with IPSec devices securing network interconnections. Best-practice organizations will focus efforts on standardized remote access usage policies, user profiles, and formalized identity management processes.
An efficient and cost-effective wireless alternative for high-speed network access has long been an elusive goal. The worldwide equipment market for fixed broadband wireless remains relatively small, with industry revenue estimates ranging from $430 million to $560 million in 2003. Enterprise adoption has been limited by a lack of understanding of the benefits of microwave technology and high deployment costs. Although service-provider usage for backhaul applications has increased over time, high product and operational costs, coupled with limited interoperability, have stunted the growth of fixed broadband wireless in local-loop and last-mile applications. However, interest in an alternative method of reaching businesses and consumers remains strong.
One such alternative in the terrestrial wireless arena is WiMAX technology, which is based on the IEEE 802.16 series of standards for broadband wireless. The WiMAX Forum was formed to increase public awareness of the broadband wireless potential and accelerate adoption by driving vendor interoperability. In the same way that the Wi-Fi Alliance spawned the growth of 802.11, WiMAX is poised to become the industry standard for IEEE 802.16-based broadband wireless equipment. Although WiMAX does not create a new market (broadband wireless currently exists in various forms), it enables the standardization of technology required for the volume economics that reduce costs and enable broader market growth. In the short term (2004), the WiMAX Forum is developing certification procedures for eventual testing of products by year’s end. By 2005, major vendors will release WiMAX-certified products, with the majority being in the sub-11GHz frequencies. Longer term, WiMAX will evolve to support last-mile, backhaul, and private enterprise applications. By 2006/07, WiMAX will emerge as an embedded solution into notebooks for direct client distribution, delivering true portable wireless broadband without external client premises equipment (CPE).
The What of WiMAX. Although the IEEE 802.16 and subsequent revisions to the 802.16 standard are intended to provide Layer 1 and 2 interoperability for broadband wireless solutions, the IEEE does not ensure compliance to the standard or end-to-end interoperability between products. To address this gap, “WiMAX-Certified” will be the brand given to all IEEE 802.16 products that have been certified compliant by the WiMAX Forum. The IEEE 802.16 standards span frequencies from 2GHz up to 66GHz and allow for much flexibility in the type of physical layer interfacing into the IEEE 802.16 Media Access Controller. This variability in physical layers will enable a multitude of applications across enterprise and service-provider environments. WiMAX will create a select number of application profiles in an effort to characterize best-use cases and limit the number of variations that exist within the market. Both point-to-point and point-to-multipoint deployments can operate in either the licensed or licensed-exempt frequencies, depending on the service-level requirements of the user. The principal emphasis of WiMAX is in point-to-multipoint deployments, though it will be deployed in many point-to-point applications such as private enterprise use and cellular backhaul. In these scenarios, orthogonal frequency division multiplexing modulation can be used to provide non-line-of-site (NLOS) connectivity between base stations and premises equipment. Across both scenarios, WiMAX will span distances of up to 30 miles, with shared data rates approaching 70 Mbps in a 20MHz channel (see Figure 1). NLOS performance is greater at lower frequency bands at close proximity to the subscriber base station. At the maximum 30-mile distance, one would expect line-of-sight performance only. A typical cell radius for NLOS fixed broadband wireless service would be three to five miles, depending on the frequency band.
The Where of WiMAX. While specific use profiles continue to be defined, the following usage scenarios are recognized as deriving the greatest benefit from standards-based broadband wireless solutions (see Figure 2):
Bottom Line: The emergence of WiMAX-certified products (2005) will lower the cost of deploying broadband wireless solutions. IT organizations should investigate WiMAX applications for lowering cost and increasing network availability.
Business Impact: Emerging wireless solutions have the potential to improve access to information across enterprise location and user type, thereby improving productivity and lowering cost.
META Group originally published this article on 6 May 2004.