WiMAX is a 4G technology that provides wireless high-speed internet access. Much like EVDO, a 3G mobile broadband technology, WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is an alternative to internet services like dial-up, DSL, cable, and satellite. It works somewhat similarly to EVDO, in that it provides broadband access to customers wirelessly via "base stations" (towers). Since it doesn't rely on cables or phone lines to deliver its signals - it uses microwave links - deploying WiMAX to a community can be done in a matter of days. This also makes it much more cost effective to create the broadband networks.
WiMAX gives consumers the ability to access the internet with 4G broadband speeds via a WiMAX device anywhere within the provider's service area. Just like EVDO or other 3G mobile broadband technologies, WiMAX users will need to use a modem to connect, such as USB dongles, ExpressCards, standard PCMCIA format cards, or devices with WiMAX chips embedded inside, like netbooks or laptops. The technology will eventually be available on handsets like PDAs, as well.
In addition to the portability, the speed of 4G broadband service is part of what makes it so special. To compare, EVDO Rev A currently tops out at about 1.4 megabits/second in optimal conditions and has much slower upload speeds than download; WiMAX can provide speeds over 10Mbps.
Unlike WiFi, WiMAX has a large range, up to 30 miles from the base station (WiFI's range is much more limited and is dependent upon the unit broadcasting the WiFi), and unlike 3G technology, it does not require a direct line of sight between the source and the endpoint. Additionally, each base station is capable of providing up to 1,000 homes/businesses with wireless broadband service at one time. There is also the option of using a "fixed-line" system, meaning that instead of accessing the WiMAX network wirelessly (like EVDO), a fixed antenna dish on the home or office points straight at the WiMAX tower and operates at higher frequencies, which decreases interference. This direct line-of-sight setup would provide a more stable connection, but obviously wouldn't offer the benefit of portability.
Sprint and CLEAR are currently the only providers in the US with a WiMAX network (Sprint uses CLEAR's network), and service is currently available in several markets including New York, Portland, Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, and others (view all markets at 4Ginfo.com/wimaxmarkets). CLEAR's 4G WiMAX service is also re-sold by other companies, including Comcast and Time Warner in select markets.
- Standard: IEEE 802.16 (also called WirelessMAN)
- Promised speeds: up to 70mbit/s in ideal conditions - realistically more like 10mbit/s
- Line-of-sight not needed between user and base station
- Frequency bands: -2 to 11 GHz and 10 to 66 GHz (licensed and unlicensed bands)