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Using WiMAX Technology

WiMAX Requirements, Performance and Cost

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Using WiMAX Technology
WiMAX is a wireless wide area network that provides the high speed of DSL while also providing connectivity in every corner of its coverage area, and provides the suitability of Wi-Fi while not requiring hotspots and not having distance limitations. WiMAX gives to wireless Internet connectivity what GSM has given to phones. In this article, we see
  • WiMAX Requirements
  • The Cost of WiMAX
  • WiMAX Performance
  • Using WiMAX
  • VoIP and WiMAX

What is Needed for WiMAX?

As with any wireless technology, the requirements for WiMAX are basically a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter is a WiMAX tower, much like a GSM tower. One tower, also called a base station, can provide coverage to an area within a radius of around 50 km. There is nothing much you the consumer can do about that tower; it is the part of the service provider's facilities. So first, you need to get yourself subscribed to a WiMAX service. Here is a list of deployed WiMAX networks around the world, from which you can search for one closest to you.

On the other side, in order to receive the WiMAX waves, you need a receiver for WiMAX for connecting your computer or device. Ideally, your device will have WiMAX support in-built, but that might be a bit rare and expensive, because the first WiMAX-enabled laptops have just been released and at the time I am writing this, there are only a handful of WiMAX-enabled mobile phones, like the Nokia N810 Internet tablet. However, there are PCMCIA cards for laptops, which are quite affordable and convenient. I used to have a WiMAX modem that I'd connect to my laptop, but it happened to be quite inconvenient since it needed to be powered and it was less than easily portable. WiMAX modems can connect to computers and other devices through USB and Ethernet cables.

What WiMAX Costs

WiMAX is bound to be cheaper than both broadband DSL Internet and 3G data plans. We don't consider Wi-Fi here even if it is free because it is a LAN technology.

WiMAX is cheaper than wired DSL because it does not require placing wires around the area to be covered, which represents an enormous investment for the provider. Not requiring this investment opens the door to many service providers who can start retailing out wireless broadband with low capital, thereby causing prices to drop due to competition.

3G is packet-based and users normally have a threshold package. Data transferred beyond the limit of this package is paid per excess MB. This can end up being quite expensive for heavy users. On the other hand, WiMAX allows unlimited connectivity for all kinds of data, including data, voice and video.

If you intend to use WiMAX, you will only have to invest on a WiMAX-supporting hardware or device that will connect to your existing hardware. In these early days of WiMAX integration, the former will be expensive, but the latter quite affordable and even free. When I subscribed for a WiMAX service some time back, I was given a modem free of charge (to be returned at the end of the contract). I only had to pay the monthly fee, which was a flat rate for unlimited access. So finally, WiMAX, especially at home and in the office, can be relatively quite cheap.

WiMAX Performance

WiMAX is quite powerful, with a speed of up to 70 Mbps, which is a lot. Now what comes after determines the quality of the connection you receive. Some providers try to accommodate too many subscribers on one line (on their servers), which results in poor performances during peak times and for certain applications.

WiMAX has a range of around 50 km in a circle. Terrain, weather and buildings affect this range and this often results in many people not receiving signals good enough for a proper connection. Orientation is also an issue, and some people have to choose to place their WiMAX modems near windows and turned in certain specific directions for good reception.

A WiMAX connection is normally non-line-of-sight, which means that the transmitter and the receiver need not have a clear line between them. But a line-of-sight version exists, where performance and stability is much better, since this does away with problems associated with terrain and buildings.

Using WiMAX

You can use WiMAX in any way you use a DSL or Wi-Fi connection. For instance, if you have a laptop computer equipped with a WiMAX PCMCIA card, you can be connected anywhere under the coverage area, which can be as large as your whole city or country. Through this machine, you can use Internet applications, make voice calls through VoIP, make video conferencing, and more. Same applies to mobile handsets that are WiMAX powered.

WiMAX and VoIP

VoIP has much been hindered by the limitations of DSL broadband and wireless networks like 3G and Wi-Fi. If WiMAX is developed and matured, it will constitute an ideal platform for the deployment of VoIP applications and services. VoIP will therefore drastically thrive with WiMAX. Read more on VoIP and WiMAX.
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