History Of WiMAX

In the mid 1990's, telecommunication companies developed the idea to use fixed broadband wireless networks for potential last mile solutions to provide an alternate. means to deliver Internet connectivity to businesses and individuals. Their aim was to produce a network with the speed, capacity, and reliability of a hardwired network, while maintaining with the flexibility, simplicity, and low costs of a wireless network. This technology would also act as a versatile system for corporate or institutional backhaul distribution networks and would attempt to compete with the leading Internet carriers.

The huge potential for this flexible, low cost network generated much attention to two types of fixed wireless broadband technologies: Local Multipoint Distribution Services (LMDS) and Multi-channel Multipoint Distribution Services (MMDS). LMDS was primarily intended to speed up and bridge Metropolitan Area Networks in larger corporations and on University campuses.

MMDS was meant to provide a means for local television network distribution and for residential broadband services. However, the high costs, lack of standards, and fear of vendor lock-in prevented LMDS from taking off early on. As a result, in 1999 the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) devised the 802.16 standard for LMDS.

This standard, which was eventually released in 2001, operated on a point-to-point radio link network by means of line of sight transmissions, and had a frequency range of 10 GHz to 66 GHz. However, since this standard was modeled off of Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) technology and had restricted capabilities, developers focused more exclusively on the 802.16 standard that functioned in the range of 2 GHz to 11 GHz.

In 2001, the WiMAX Forum was established with the agenda to market and promote the 802.16 standard. There they coined the term WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access). In 2003 the IEEE came out with 802.16a, which transmitted data through non-line of sight radio channels to and from omni-directional antennas. Later on, in 2004, the 802.16-2004 standard was released. This standard combined the updates from the IEEE 802.16a, 802.16b, and 802.16c regulations.

This broadband system extended the WiMAX service to a 30-mile range and had the ability to disperse its network between hundreds of terminals. Yet the IEEE did not stop there. In 2005, they came out with the first Mobile WiMAX system: 802.16e. This version used a Scalable Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (SOFDMA) engine, which supported over 2,000 subcarriers, optimized handover delay and packet loss, and increased network security.

The IEEE continues to update and modify the WiMAX system specifications to further improve its capabilities. They have made a push to publish their next major 802.16 standard named 802.16m. One of the goals for this version is to increase data speeds to 1Gbps. IEEE also looks ahead to approve and deploy the 802.20 standard in the near future, which has dubbed the nickname Mobile-Fi. Many WiMAX Forum certified products for fixed and nomadic applications are currently commercially available and are constantly being developed. It is then no wonder why WiMAX is a leader of emerging wireless standards and continues to write its own history.

By, Ben Feldman

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