Introduction of WiMax
WiMax is a technology which has been touted as the future of long-range wireless networking. Many people consider WiMax synonymous with the term 3G. Lately though this association has proven tenuous, largely due to the emergence of a technology called Long Term Evolution (LTE). This series of articles will discuss the rivalry of these two third generation long-range wireless networking technologies.
What is Wimax
WiMax is a standard of the
and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) with the 802.16 designation. From my previous article on WiFi (802.11), we now know that the 802 part of 802.16 means that the standard was implemented by the LAN/MAN subcommittee which has the 802 designation. The 16 of 802.16 means that this standard was created/approved by the Broadband Wireless Access Working Group within the LAN/MAN subcommittee. Institute of Electrical
History of Wimax
The idea for what is now known as WiMax began in the mid 1990's. At that time, the technology industry was seeing tremendous growth and new, exciting ideas were being found everywhere. It was clear to telecommunications service providers that there was a huge desire for broadband Internet access. This desire was coming from both home users and corporate users. Many telecommunications companies began planning and designing distribution networks that would be capable of handling the high traffic volumes expected. In most cases, their answer was fibre optic cables.
The need to use fibre optic cables to provide widespread broadband Internet access came at a huge cost. Some estimates put this cost at about $300 per foot of fibre. As you can imagine this type of network would get very expensive very quickly. As this was being done, some industry players were busy looking for an alternative which could provide the widespread broadband Internet access without costing an arm and a leg. Their solution was to use a wireless technology.
In the early days of this wireless broadband access, and still today actually, its biggest cheerleader was Intel. Intel was in the midst of a prolonged slump in sales and saw an opportunity in this type of wireless access, and for good reason. Up until this point Intel had been a key player, a very successful player I might add, in the emerging WiFi market. Intel had been involved with WiFi since the beginning and even integrated WiFi capability into their popular Centrino line of processors. Since Intel had the expertise and the experience in WiFi wireless access they were hoping that they could leverage that into success in another type of wireless access.
Of course, Intel had some challenges. Firstly, in
North America many service providers were already implementing fibre optic networks for the delivery of broadband Internet access so many business leaders felt that the market for wireless broadband Internet access may be limited to developing markets. Secondly, some service providers had already begun experimenting with their own wireless broadband solutions.
In these early days there was a real patchwork of technologies which didn't adhere to any agreed upon standard. Without an agreed upon industry standard many users were hesitant to purchase the required hardware for fear of being "locked-in" to a particular service provider. Or worse, that the technology would prove unpopular and would quickly become obsolete. This fear by consumers is perfectly rational and has been previously shown to be justified (just look at the VHS / Beta fiasco). So, with consumers hesitant to purchase the required hardware it is understandable that hardware manufacturers would be hesitant to even make the devices and risk low sale volumes. Intel recognized the problems of not having an agreed upon standard and set about to convince others. It didn't take a lot of convincing.