Mobile WiMAX and Fixed WiMAX

Mobile WiMAX or 802.16e standard was defined by the IEEE - the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers - in 2005 as a potential to emerge as a real viable competitor to 3G technologies. With the potential of mobile WiMAX,there is an increasing focus on portable units. This includes handsets very similar to cellular smartphones and PC peripherals (PC Cards or USB dongles). In addition, there is much emphasis from operators on consumer electronics devices (game terminals, MP3 players and the like); it is notable this is more similar to Wi-Fi than 3G cellular technologies.

Mobile WiMAX networks are usually made of indoor customer premises equipment - CPE such as desktop modems,laptops with integrated Mobile WiMAX or other Mobile WiMAX devices. The low-cost, all-IP network architecture and backwards compatibility with existing 2G and 3G cellular network deployments makes WiMAX easier and more cost-effective to deploy and operate than current mobile wireless data solutions. This potential gained traction when South Korea chose a mobile WiMAX compatible standard known as WiBro - since renamed to Mobile WiMAX - to market.

As things stand today, the Mobile WiMAX technology appears to be the clear winner amongst standards and will be used for both mobile purposes and adapted to fixed iterations as necessary. Delivering the next leap in the mobile network evolution with fourth generation (4G) wireless, WiMAX will drive a wide array of devices well beyond what's available today, including notebooks, phones, consumer electronic devices, Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) and more.

Mobile broadband wireless or 3G has enjoyed two largely consistent standards, those being the code division multiple access (CDMA) based approach with its evolution data only (EVDO) and the universal mobile telecommunications system (UMTS) and its faster upgrade high speed downlink packet access (HSDPA), which in particular has gained some deployments in the past year. However, these technologies were slow to mature into economically viable and affordable iterations. The EVDO schema is now in a Revision A version which improves bandwidth considerably. Verizon and Sprint are the first US based carriers to begin wide deployment. Sprint currently has deployed most of its markets with 3G as has Verizon. The bandwidth limitations have been significant and the adoption by carriers, particularly those utilizing GSM technology here in the US has been very slow (as they are essentially incompatible technologies).

Newer broadband UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications system) systems that are GSM compatible have seen some traction with AT&T recently in the US, with the bulk of gains happening overseas, particularly in Europe. The sheer cost factor of the technology relative to its native spectral efficiency has not been conducive to adoption either. Estimates for the nation's cellular carriers to build a comprehensive 3G network have ranged as high as $50 Billion. But clearly the momentum is now on the side of 3G simply due to carrier needs to improve revenue streams and also due to innovations in handsets that are driving the public hunger for broadband applications. AT&T, for example, stated its surprise at how much higher the use of graphical and video downloads were for users of its new Apple iPhone device, which has recently been introduced in a 3G version. Carriers are scrambling to produce higher-capacity broadband systems.

Mobile WiMAX offers a multi-spectrum standard with a better broadband technology concept that can significantly reduce costs, improve spectral efficiency and deliver profitable services. The growth curve of the technology, partly due to the large number of chip and radio vendor firms driving the technology, should provide a much higher innovation curve for WiMAX. Internationally, broadband mobile wireless does enjoy greater acceptance. Many companies are inherently more comfortable using a 3G upgrade from the GSM side due to the similarities of the technology.

Fixed Wimax- WiMAX is arguably even more important for the fixed broadband wireless segment than mobile broadband, at least internally to that industry. It seems clear that mobile broadband wireless holds the loftier long term monetary and customer growth potential. However, the fixed wireless segment has been fragmented essentially since its inception. There are no cohesive standards for outdoor metropolitan area networks beyond the adapted Wi-Fi technologies. Wi-Fi as a standard has been accepted in broad strokes by the industry and the public. However, it is not a well conceived citywide technology.

This industry has languished due to the inability to foment a cohesive technology strategy. Innovative features were restricted to individual brands with the result that numerous innovations if combined would have greatly improved results for all. Since most fixed broadband wireless systems in the US rely primarily upon unlicensed band technology, the potential for WiMAX to impact this segment, albeit a small segment did not appear very good. However, the advent of fixed WiMAX radio systems in the 3.65 GHz bands in the US that have been adapted from licensed band 3.5 GHz technology originally designed for European and Asian markets offers real hope for WiMAX impact in the US. Due to the number of adherents for the technology LTE will certainly play a major if not dominant part in the mobile broadband wireless equation.

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