WhatMAX: Just what is WiMAX?

You’ve probably already heard of WiMAX. But do you know what it is?

WiMAX stands for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access. Tongue twister, I know. According to many, WiMAX is the next big thing in broadband. But don’t take our word for it — according to Springboard Research, an IT research company, revenues for WiMAX services are estimated to swell to $5.46 billion by 2012, on the back of approximately 33.9 million subscribers by that time.

Theoretically, this technology has the potential to provide up to 70 megabits per second (Mbps) of broadband speed without the need for cables. That’s pretty damn impressive on face value!

WiMAX has already gained some ground, with trials and early infrastructure making its way into several countries, including Pakistan.

Although WiMAX may be a competitor to 4G networks, its most likely use is mobile broadband, rather than as a handset communications technology. Ultimately, it’s a standards-based wireless technology that should provide an alternative to DSL and cable networks.

But is it all good news?

Like every technology, there are positives and negatives. Without the installation of specific WiMAX equipment, you’ll never see speeds of 70Mbps. As this is a different technology to Wi-Fi, you can’t just use your existing router or network equipment to hook into WiMAX.

Unfortunately, WiMAX won’t work as it's intended without direct line of sight between communication towers. It’s also heavily based on distance — as you get further away from a particular tower, your speed will decrease.

Right now, WiMAX is in the process of being rolled out in many markets, both in Australia and overseas. Wireless telco Unwired will be one of the first to use WiMAX at a consumer level in Australia, and it recently announced Motorola, Alcatel-Lucent or Huawei will supply its WiMAX-capable hardware.

In spite of the negatives, WiMAX can’t come quick enough. With oversubscribed 3G networks at boiling point and rural consumers still forced to use Telstra, it will at the very least shake up the market.

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World
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