WiMAX, meaning Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, is a telecommunications technology that provides wireless transmission of data using a variety of transmission modes, from point-to-multipoint links to portable and fully mobile internet access. The technology provides up to 10 Mbps broadband speed without the need for cables. The technology is based on the IEEE 802.16 standard (also called Broadband Wireless Access) that is intended for wireless “metropolitan area networks”. WiMAX can provide broadband wireless access (BWA) up to 30 miles (50 km) for fixed stations, and 3 – 10 miles (5 -15 km) for mobile stations. In contrast, the WiFi/802.11 wireless local area network standard is limited in most cases to only 100 – 300 feet (30 – 100m).
With WiMAX, WiFi-like data rates are easily supported, but the issue of interference is lessened. WiMAX operates on both licensed and non-licensed frequencies, providing a regulated environment and viable economic model for wireless carriers.
WiMAX can be used for wireless networking in much the same way as the more common WiFi protocol. WiMAX is a second-generation protocol that allows for more efficient bandwidth use, interference avoidance, and is intended to allow higher data rates over longer distances.
The bandwidth and range of WiMAX make it suitable for the following potential applications:
· Connecting Wi-Fi hotspots to the Internet.
· Providing a wireless alternative to cable and DSL for “last mile” broadband access.
· Providing data, telecommunications and IPTV services (triple-play).
· Providing a source of Internet connectivity as part of a business continuity plan. That is, if a business has both a fixed and a wireless Internet connection, especially from unrelated providers, they are unlikely to be affected by the same service outage.
· Providing portable connectivity.
1.1.2 Subscriber Units (Client Units)
WiMAX subscriber units are available in both indoor and outdoor versions from several manufacturers. Self-install indoor units are convenient, but radio losses mean that the subscriber must be significantly closer to the WiMAX base station than with professionally-installed external units. As such, indoor-installed units require a much higher infrastructure investment as well as operational cost (site lease, backhaul, maintenance) due to the high number of base stations required to cover a given area. Indoor units are comparable in size to a cable modem or DSL modem. Outdoor units are roughly the size of a laptop PC, and their installation is comparable to the installation of a residential satellite dish.
With the potential of mobile WiMAX, there is an increasing focus on portable units. This includes handsets (similar to cellular smartphones), PC peripherals (PC Cards or USB dongles), and embedded devices in laptops, which are now available for Wi-Fi services. In addition, there is much emphasis from operators on consumer electronics devices such as Gaming consoles, MP3 players and similar devices. It is notable that WiMAX is more similar to Wi-Fi than to 3G cellular technologies.
Current certified devices can be found at the WiMAX Forum web site. This is not a complete list of devices available as certified modules are embedded into laptops, MIDs (Mobile internet devices), and private labeled devices.
1.1.3 Backhaul/Access Network Applications
WiMAX is a possible replacement candidate for cellular phone technologies such as GSM and CDMA, or can be used as an overlay to increase capacity. It has also been considered as a wireless backhaul technology for 2G, 3G, and 4G networks in both developed and poor nations .
WiMAX is a broadband platform and as such has much more substantial backhaul bandwidth requirements than legacy cellular applications. Therefore traditional copper wire line backhaul solutions are not appropriate. Capacities of between 34 Mbps and 1 Gbps are routinely being deployed with latencies in the order of 1ms. In many cases, operators are aggregating sites using wireless technology and then presenting traffic on to fiber networks where convenient.
1.2 Technical Information
WiMAX refers to interoperable implementations of the IEEE 802.16 wireless-networks standard, in similarity with Wi-Fi, which refers to interoperable implementations of the IEEE 802.11 Wireless LAN standard.
1.2.1 Physical Layer
The original version of the standard on which WiMAX is based (IEEE 802.16) specified a physical layer operating in the 10 to 66 GHz range. 802.16a updated in 2004 to 802.16-2004, added specifications for the 2 to 11 GHz range. 802.16-2004 was updated by 802.16e-2005 in 2005 and uses scalable orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (SOFDMA) as opposed to the orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) version with 256 sub-carriers (of which 200 are used) in 802.16d. More advanced versions, including 802.16e, also bring multiple antenna support through MIMO. This brings potential benefits in terms of coverage, self installation, power consumption, frequency re-use and bandwidth efficiency. 802.16e also adds a capability for full mobility support. The WiMAX certification allows vendors with 802.16d products to sell their equipment as WiMAX certified, thus ensuring a level of interoperability with other certified products, as long as they fit the same profile.
1.2.2 MAC (Data Link) Layer
In Wi-Fi the media access controller (MAC) uses contention access – all subscriber stations that wish to pass data through a wireless access point (AP) are competing for the AP’s attention on a random interrupt basis. This can cause subscriber stations distant from the AP to be repeatedly interrupted by closer stations, greatly reducing their throughput.
In contrast, the 802.16 MAC uses a scheduling algorithm for which the subscriber station needs to compete only once (for initial entry into the network). After that it is allocated an access slot by the base station. The time slot can enlarge and contract, but remains assigned to the subscriber station, which means that other subscribers cannot use it. In addition to being stable under overload and over-subscription, the 802.16 scheduling algorithm can also be more bandwidth efficient. The scheduling algorithm also allows the base station to control QoS parameters by balancing the time-slot assignments among the application needs of the subscriber stations.
1.2.3 Integration with an IP-based Network
The WiMAX Forum has proposed an architecture that defines how a WiMAX network can be connected with an IP based core network, which is typically chosen by operators that serve as Internet Service Providers (ISP); Nevertheless the WiMAX BS provide seamless integration capabilities with other types of architectures as with packet switched Mobile Networks.
The WiMAX forum proposal defines a number of components, plus some of the interconnections (or reference points) between these, labeled R1 to R5 and R8:
· SS/MS: the Subscriber Station/Mobile Station
· ASN: the Access Service Network 
· BS: Base station, part of the ASN
· ASN-GW: the ASN Gateway, part of the ASN
· CSN: the Connectivity Service Network
· HA: Home Agent, part of the CSN NAP: a Network Access Provider
· NSP: a Network Service Provider
It is important to note that the functional architecture can be designed into various hardware configurations rather than fixed configurations. For example, the architecture is flexible enough to allow remote/mobile stations of varying scale and functionality and Base Stations of varying size – e.g. femto, pico, and mini BS as well as macros.
1.2.4 Comparison with Wi-Fi
Comparisons and confusion between WiMAX and Wi-Fi are frequent because both are related to wireless connectivity and Internet access.
· WiMAX is a long range system, covering many kilometers that uses licensed or unlicensed spectrum to deliver a point-to-point connection to the Internet.
· Different 802.16 standards provide different types of access, from portable (similar to a cordless phone) to fixed (an alternative to wired access, where the end user’s wireless termination point is fixed in location.)
· Wi-Fi uses unlicensed spectrum to provide access to a network.
· Wi-Fi is more popular in end user devices.
· WiMAX and Wi-Fi have quite different quality of service (QoS) mechanisms:
· WiMAX uses a QoS mechanism based on connections between the base station and the user device. Each connection is based on specific scheduling algorithms.
· Wi-Fi has a QoS mechanism similar to fixed Ethernet, where packets can receive different priorities based on their tags. For example VoIP traffic may be given priority over web browsing.
· Wi-Fi runs on the Media Access Control’s CSMA/CA protocol, which is connectionless and contention based, whereas WiMAX runs a connection-oriented MAC.
· Both 802.11 and 802.16 define Peer-to-Peer (P2P) and ad hoc networks, where an end user communicates to users or servers on another Local Area Network (LAN) using its access point or base station.
1.2.5 Spectrum Allocation Issues
There is no uniform global licensed spectrum for WiMAX, although the WiMAX Forum has published three licensed spectrum profiles: 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz and 3.5 GHz, in an effort to decrease cost. Economies of scale dictate that the more WiMAX embedded devices such as mobile phones and WiMAX-embedded laptops are produced, the lower the unit cost (The two highest cost components of producing a mobile phone are the silicon and the extra radio needed for each band).
WiMAX profiles define channel size, TDD/FDD and other necessary attributes in order to have inter-operating products. The current fixed profiles are defined for both TDD and FDD profiles. At this point, all of the mobile profiles are TDD only. The fixed profiles have channel sizes of 3.5 MHz, 5 MHz, 7 MHz and 10 MHz. The mobile profiles are 5 MHz, 8.75 MHz and 10 MHz. (Note: the 802.16 standard allows a far wider variety of channels, but only the above subsets are supported as WiMAX profiles).
1.2.6 Spectral Efficiency
One of the significant advantages of advanced wireless systems such as WiMAX is spectral efficiency. For example, 802.16-2004 (fixed) has a spectral efficiency of 3.7 (bit/s)/Hertz, and other 3.5-4G wireless systems offer spectral efficiencies that are similar to within a few tenths of a percent. The notable advantage of WiMAX comes from combining SOFDMA with smart antenna technologies. This multiplies the effective spectral efficiency through multiple reuse and smart network deployment topologies. The direct use of frequency domain organization simplifies designs using MIMO-AAS compared to CDMA/WCDMA methods, resulting in more effective systems.
A commonly-held misconception is that WiMAX will deliver 70 Mbit/s over 50 kilometers (30 miles). In reality, WiMAX can either operate at higher bitrates or over longer distances but not both: operating at the maximum range of 50 km increases bit error rate and thus results in a much lower bitrates. Conversely, reducing the range (to less than 1 km) allows a device to operate at higher bitrates. There are no known examples of WiMAX services being delivered at bit rates over around 40 Mbit/s.
Typically, fixed WiMAX networks have a higher-gain directional antenna installed near the client (customer) which results in greatly increased range and throughput. 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. Mobile WiMAX devices typically have omnidirectional antenna which are of lower-gain compared to directional antennas but are more portable. In current deployments, the throughput may reach 2 Mbit/s symmetric at 10 km with fixed WiMAX and a high gain antenna. It is also important to consider that a throughput of 2 Mbit/s can mean 2 Mbit/s symmetric simultaneously, 1 Mbit/s symmetric or some asymmetric mix (e.g. 0.5 Mbit/s downlink and 1.5 Mbit/s uplink or 1.5 Mbit/s downlink and 0.5 Mbit/s uplink), each of which required slightly different network equipment and configurations. Higher-gain directional antennas can be used with a WiMAX network with range and throughput benefits but the obvious loss of practical mobility. Like most wireless systems, available bandwidth is shared between users in a given radio sector, so performance could deteriorate in the case of many active users in a single sector. In practice, most users will have a range of 2-3 Mbit/s services and additional radio cards will be added to the base station to increase the number of users that may be served as required.
Because of these limitations, the general consensus is that WiMAX requires various granular and distributed network architectures to be incorporated within the IEEE 802.16 task groups. This includes wireless mesh, grids, network remote station repeaters which can extend networks and connect to backhaul.
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